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What Do Hot Dogs and Boots Have In Common?

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We’ve all come to learn how hard it can be to really connect with people via virtual platforms. Nevertheless, at the virtual 2020 Regenerative Earth Summit, Gina Asoudegan, Applegate’s vice president of mission and regenerative agriculture, managed to make an impression. After hearing her speak on regenerative leadership and strategy, Timberland’s Zachary Angelini reached out to chat. The conversations would lead to one of the most innovative and promising collaborations in the nascent market for regenerative meat.

As senior manager of environmental stewardship, Angelini is responsible for greening supply chains.

 Timberland has long been committed to sourcing eco-friendly materials; the company launched its first Earthkeepers® boot, made with recycled plastic bottles and recycled rubber, way back in 2007, and has set a goal for all its products to have a net positive impact by 2030.

Meeting that goal means finding regeneratively sourced leather—a lot of it. And the fact is there isn’t that much out there. Even if Angelini could find ranchers open to making the shift to regenerative practices, the premium he would pay for the leather wouldn’t be enough to change many minds. Coming to the table with Applegate, though, “unlocks all kinds of conversations,” Angelini said. “The beautiful thing is we can support the same farms and not compete on the end product. It’s a win-win.”

Applegate and Timberland’s first collaboration is with SunFed Ranch, which, with its partners, manages 1.5 million acres of U.S. grasslands. The cattle for the program are raised on land verified by the Savory Institute, a pioneer in regenerative agriculture. Applegate takes the meat for its DO GOOD DOG hot dog, Timberland uses the leather for its Earthkeepers® line and even shares some with its sister company, Vans.

The partners are seeking to bring aboard new ranches as well as more companies that might benefit from a regenerative supply chain.

 Think: bone broth makers or cosmetic companies that can use regeneratively sourced collagen in moisturizers. “This is an opportunity for the regenerative market to out-collaborate the competition,” he said, referring to the industrial system, where making use of every bit of the animal is standard practice. “Working together is how we compete.”

Of course, there aren’t a lot of Applegates or Timberlands—companies with both the progressive values and, essentially, the scale to make real impact. But that isn’t deterring Asoudegan or Angelini on their quest to disrupt the conventional cattle industry. “Even when we came together for the first time,” remembers Asoudegan, “we kept saying, food and fashion make so much sense together. How did we not think of this before?”

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