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By Lizzy Fallows
Brand Experience, Timbuk2

Timbuk2 has continuously manufactured made to order bags in the San Francisco since 1989. We are very proud of our manufacturing heritage in San Francisco and of our thriving made to order business today. But we also manufacture overseas. This blend of at-home and abroad manufacturing enables us to meet the consumer, product, and market demands required to compete globally and deliver products we believe in at prices more customers can afford.

We have always shown still photography and video footage of our factory in San Francisco, but we have not focused on developing in-depth content around our manufacturing partners overseas. Some of it was logistics — our San Francisco office and factory are literally in the same building, so it’s easy to pop in and take photos — but a lot of it was focus. We are a small team with limited resources and mountains of work, but our manufacturing story matters to us and to our customers. Thus in 2012 we committed to telling our complete manufacturing story – at home and abroad.

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Upon diving into the story of our manufacturing partners in Asia, we found ourselves in the world of Corporate Responsibility. Corporate Responsibility is always something we’ve valued deeply as a company and discussed openly with our manufacturing partners, but like our manufacturing story in Asia, we haven’t focused on sharing details with our customers. So what began as a mission to tell a more complete manufacturing story evolved into an effort to formalize our Corporate Responsibility (CR) policies and share them with all interested parties — employees, partners, and customers.

The good news is it was much more rewarding than we expected. Because we are small, we had to tackle this ourselves; we didn’t have the luxury of big budgets or expert consultants. But in our experience, not doing anything was the hardest part! Once we got started we immediately made progress and discovered that we enjoyed working in this space, not just because it’s good for everyone involved, but because you can make a meaningful impact with small, incremental actions. The following are Timbuk2’s tips for how to tackle Corporate Responsibility, even when you don’t think you can.

  1. Start small. Anything and everything you do will be better than doing nothing at all.
  2. Build a team. Even if it’s an army of one, determine who will lead the CR effort in your company and empower them to think big.
  3. Be positive. Corporate Responsibility can be a daunting space, but it should be liberating and even fun. See #1.
  4. Identify your heroes. Who do you admire in your space and why? Drafting off what others have created is not a bad thing.
  5. Bucket your work. Do you want to tackle social or environmental responsibility first? Who wants to lead which effort? Can you work in tandem or do you need to tackle things one at a time? Once you’ve answered these questions, you can move on to #6 and 7.
  6. Set realistic goals. See #1.
  7. Write it down. Write and publish a social and/or environmental code of conduct. Per #4, you can draft off of other’s, but the process will force you to determine what really matters to your company and importantly, it will force you to put a stake in the ground.
  8. Talk about it. Be open and transparent with your company and customers. Celebrate your efforts and free yourselves to learn and improve.
  9. Iterate. Corporate Responsibility and manufacturing are dynamic, changing spaces that require iteration and constant learning. Approach them as a process, not an end goal.
  10. Be Proud. If you are proud of your people, process, and product only good can come. Share the story of how it all comes together and you’ll build trust and respect in your community.

See the results of Timbuk2’s 2012 efforts here and cheers to your story!