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Puma attempts some serious research on sustainability impacts

Puma announced today that it’s done some serious measuring of its supply chain and other environmental impacts.

Here’s a BBC news article that I shamelessly edited below, and the original press release from Puma.

The company has worked with PWC and Truscost to map some costs in its operations. Apparently the CEO was excellent on Channel Four news tonight.

Here are some highlights from Puma’s research with consultants on impacts:

• Combined cost of the carbon & water in 2010 was 94.4m euros ($134.3m; £82.8m)
• Included supply chain in calculations
• Impact of greenhouse gases equivalent: 47m euros
• Water use: 47.4m euros.
• Suppliers make up more than 87m euros of total
• Outsourced processes (embroidering and printing) now subject to same environmental and social standards as own manufacturing processes
• Set a target of reducing its carbon, waste, energy and water use by 25% by 2015
• Puma CEO said simply offsetting carbon was not enough: “The primary objective has to be not to emit the carbon [in the first place]”.
• Next phase of its “EPnL” will include the cost of waste and land-use change

This is clearly useful work. One might quibble with bits of the methodology, no doubt (one always can) but this is good baseline work. You can’t manage without measuring as the old cliche goes.

Of course, the labour standards campaigners will say this is a distraction from improving wages, labour conditions, poverty alleviation etc. And as we know greener is only half the story (not sure if anyone told a lot of the folks in the US that yet).

There’s a lot more to be done, and the social side is much harder, given the subjectivity of development, emerging economies and so on.

But this raises the game for other brands: It won’t be long before baseline studies such as this are the norm, rather than the exception.

Here’s the Channel Four news item with Puma’s CEO on YouTube.

And here’s Mallen Baker’s take on it. He asks some important questions about how the numbers were calculated and concludes some of them are close to made-up.

I take Mallen’s point here. Trucost and PWC have made some broad sweeping assumptions it’s clear. I’m pleased Puma have started down this road though, since only by doing so will they eventually arrive at more accurate numbers. Some environmentalists will call it greenwash, but it’s at least a start.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Toby

    I agree that the company has done a good, thorough job of mapping out where its carbon footprint lies, and some of that detail is interesting and insightful. I don't want to downplay the amount of work that goes into doing that properly.

    The thing that got my goat was the 'first major corporation to do something important' statement – and the fact that this was based on slapping a dollar price on its impact that didn't mean much. For me, that is undermining the valuable work of working out the emissions and water consumption – and the idea that it's setting a trend that others will follow, well let's hope not.

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