A Necessary Journey - A blog by Christine Arena

A Necessary Journey - A blog by Christine Arena


The 3BL Media blog roll is a select list of the most influential, respected, and authoritative voices in corporate social responsibility. Compiled from the 3BL Media staff’s extensive contacts with longtime CSR commentators, these bloggers offer relevant news, opinions, and ideas about all things CSR in one convenient place.    

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - 5:08pm


It was an unusually quiet plane ride home. Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz and Share Our Strength Founder Bill Shore had reached the end of a life-changing journey, after having spent several days in Haiti bearing witness to the unthinkable and helping to address earthquake survivor needs.

“We finally let off our last two passengers, celebrity artist Wyclef Jean and a young orthopedic surgeon from Grand Rapids, a father of four who had been in Haiti since day three performing emergency amputations with borrowed farm equipment,” Swartz recounts. “That gave me thirty-five minutes of one-on-one time with Bill, who I never get to be alone with. But I don’t think we said a word to each other the rest of the trip.”

Swartz and Shore were likely in shock. The full-blown mental processing of what they had just endured in and around Haiti would begin later, as they assimilated back into their previous routines. As part of his re-acclamation process, Swartz wrote a series of downloads to Timberland stakeholders – including a Fast Company blog post, which summarizes his takeaways, and a personal letter to employees entitled: “Bearing Witness to Haiti,” which provides a remarkable play-by-play account of his physical and emotional experience.

“I felt I needed to get this off my chest,” says Swartz. “So I wrote about the heroism of the many doctors we saw, the heartbreak of the destruction, the inspiration I felt with Bill and Wyclef, and the indignation I felt at the world’s well-intended but inept efforts to cope with this disaster.”

Also, Swartz says, he wanted to leave people with a solid indication of why a boot-making CEO would personally venture “to hell and back,” as he puts it, despite the risks involved in doing so. Just prior to his trip, reports of street violence in Haiti had escalated as millions of citizens struggled to survive a series of powerful aftershocks without adequate food, water, shelter, government or emergency support. Given the magnitude of the situation, how could a few individuals – let alone a corporate CEO – possibly make a significant difference? And besides, what would Swartz and the Timberland organization stand to gain from such a venture?

continue reading.