Sports shoemaker Puma used the recent Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Global Conference in Amsterdam to announce that it would be taking more responsibility for enhancing transparency and improving workers’ conditions along its supply chain. As such, the company has designated 20 of its suppliers to submit sustainability reports that will reveal how well they are doing – economically, environmentally and socially.

“Supply chain sustainability reporting is a key part of Puma’s overall sustainability strategy,” according to Dr Reiner Hengstmann, the company’s global head of social and environmental affairs. “Without sustainable suppliers, we will not be able to produce sustainable products or credibly report about Puma’s own sustainability initiatives.”

In a trial, three of its suppliers went through training on how to create a sustainability report. One of these suppliers, Impahla Clothing, counts Puma as its only customer. The company’s managers learned how to measure sustainability concepts such as waste diversion, energy efficiency and key performance indicators.

The resulting 51-page Sustainability Report shows how production at Impahla has increased by 40%, permanent staff have doubled, there has been a 10% drop in absenteeism, and energy consumption has dropped by a fifth. William Hughes, Impahla’s MD, is delighted by the four-year project that he says will help ingrain sustainability among his employees.

Similar projects are under way in China, South Asia, Turkey, and Portugal. By engaging with its vendors and offering them more resources, Puma is empowering its suppliers to address weaknesses in their businesses – while giving them the tools to make improvements and save money.

Sitting alongside Puma’s supply chain management concept is its uniquely sustainable packaging. It is more bag than box – and replaces the common cardboard shoebox, slashing paper and water use and carbon emissions in the process.

The ‘Clever Little Bag’, created by industrial designer Yves Béhar, was unveiled at the Design Museum in London last month, where Puma announced a number of new objectives it wants to achieve by 2015 as part of its long-term sustainability plan, it calls The new shoe packaging is made from recycled plastic and contains a single sheet of folded cardboard.

As well as eliminating the need for extra carrier bags, the company said the packaging uses 65% less paper than the traditional cardboard shoebox and cuts carbon emissions by 10 tonnes a year. It also reduces water, energy and diesel consumption on the manufacturing level by more than 60% a year.

Around 8,500 tonnes less paper will be consumed, 20M Megajoules of electricity saved, one million litres less of fuel oil used and one million litres of water saved. Puma, which is also planning to switch plastic and paper shopping bags in Puma stores to sustainable biodegradable bags, said the new packaging and distribution system would be rolled out in the second half of 2011.

The company has also developed its own sustainability benchmark system. It wants to ensure that 50% of Puma clothes and footwear collections are manufactured according to tougher standards by 2015. The Puma S-Index requires the use of sustainable materials such as organic cotton and recycled polyester, as well as ensuring best practice production processes are employed.

“For a long time our mission has been to become the most desirable sport lifestyle company. With this next phase of our sustainability programme we have evolved our mission to be the most desirable and sustainable sport lifestyle company in the world,” says chairman and CEO, Jochen Zeitz.

The company says it is also working towards the introduction of closed-loop systems and recycling programmes.

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