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How I Did It: Lessons from the Front Lines of Business by Daniel McGinn, Harvard Business Review

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Timberland’s CEO on Standing Up to 65,000 Angry Activists

by Jeff Swartz

Jeff Swartz is the president and CEO of Timberland.

The Idea

After Greenpeace pressured Timberland to pull out of Brazil, CEO Jeff Swartz chose instead to engage with the activist group and Timberland’s Brazilian supplier in hopes of making a positive difference.

You can tell a lot about how your day is going to unfold by the number of e-mails that are waiting for you. I’m a pretty early riser—4 AM most days—so I typically start out ahead of the game when it comes to e-mails. But on June 1, 2009, they kept coming, and coming, and coming.

The first one accused Timberland of supporting slave labor, destroying Amazon rain forests, and exacerbating global warming—all in the ...

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