Puma is to eliminate the humble cardboard shoebox and plans to produce half of its sportswear from sustainable sources as part of a push to use ethical credentials to steal a march on rivals.
|A Puma store in Belgium|
Jochen Zeitz, chief executive, said Puma wanted to become the "most sustainable" sportswear company, but offered collaboration with other companies on its packaging technology, which includes the use of a corn starch-based product to replace plastic in wrapping clothing and in carrier bags in the group's stores.
The initiatives by the world's third-largest sporting goods maker - which vies for consumer spending with Adidas, its German neighbour and rival, and Nike of the US - shows how environmental concerns are prompting consumer goods companies to alter production and marketing methods.
Mr Zeitz said Puma had decided to pre-empt any potential legislation that would enforce more environmentally sustainable practices. "Puma must face the reality that neither its business nor the retail industry are currently sustainable in a way that does not affect future generations," the company said.
Mr Zeitz also said Puma would follow the growing trend of linking some of the pay of senior executives to sustainability. Managers around the world will be judged on how much carbon emissions are reduced in their own operations, he said. "Money is an important way of changing behaviour," he added.
A number of other companies - led by those from the Netherlands, including DSM, TNT and Akzo Nobel - have linked executive pay to improving the environment, as well as other matters such as employee and customer satisfaction. Heineken, the Dutch brewer, announced a similar plan yesterday.
Puma has unveiled a reusable bag to replace boxes for shipping shoes from factories to consumers from late next year. The company also said at least half its footwear, clothing and accessories would in time be produced from recycled or organic products.
Puma's initiative comes as it and its competitors gear up for the football World Cup in South Africa this year, one of the most important platforms for sports goods marketing.
Puma, owned by PPR, the French luxury goods group, said its new packaging and production methods would initially increase costs. "If you buy recycled material or organic it costs more . . . we hope there will be more [cheap] supplies in the future," Mr Zeitz said.
He also called for the EU to end the practice of imposing anti-dumping duties on products from Vietnam and China, saying that would help Puma spend on sustainable methods of production. Vietnam is the source of about 30 per cent of Puma's production.
Last month, Nike said it would use recycled plastic bottles to make football shirts for the World Cup.