Puma’s Strict Supplier-First Strategy: Inside

by | Oct 2, 2023 | BUSINESS, SUSTAINABILITY | 0 comments

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Puma is predicting many more decades to come as it celebrates its 75th year, with assistance.

According to Anne-Laure Descours, chief sourcing officer of Puma, collaboration is essential for the sporting giant’s sourcing prowess. Seven years after first joining Puma to lead apparel and accessory procurement, she assumed the role in February 2019.

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The Puma Forever.Better sustainability plan, which is based on the company’s 10for25 targets unveiled in 2019, was built by Descours and her team right away. These objectives, which cover human rights, climate action, circularity, products, water and air, biodiversity, plastics and the ocean, chemicals, health and safety, and equitable income, are inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

A thorough materiality analysis and stakeholder consultation produced the program. Descours stated in an interview with OZIFOX that “through this strategy we aim to make Puma better across the entire value chain.” Although there is still a lot of work to be done, the progress we are making gives us hope.

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Beyond What Is Visible

Although for the time being logos, inventions, or star-studded athlete collaborations may appear to rule the sports world, there are significant supply chain operations that go into reaching the end result—or product.

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Puma’s Re:Suede sneaker

One such achievement is Puma’s most recent prototype of the “Suede,” its renowned sneaker. Hemp fibers, biodegradable thermoplastic polymers, and Zeology-tanned suede (free of chrome and heavy metals) are some of the ingredients used to make the Re:Suede. The wearer’s comfort was tested using this combination.

Descours made a suggestion that they will soon share the test results showing whether the shoe had effectively biodegraded at an industrial composting facility in the Netherlands. “As part of the Re:Fibre project, which saw significant activations with football clubs like Manchester City and Olympique de Marseille, we also tested garment-to-garment recycling.”

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Always on the move, the company held its “Conference of the People” international conference in London in September to propose methods to make the fashion business more sustainable.

Descours regularly hears from a variety of stakeholders in her position. Our “Puma Voices of a Re:Generation” initiative, a project that promotes sustainability for the following generation, is a product of our COP, she said. We will collaborate with four young people, known as Voices of a Re:Generation, to translate sustainability in a way that appeals to and engages the younger generation. These young change agents who are committed to building a better future, questioning the status quo, and collaborating with us to bring about change inspire me. We also developed the podcast series Puma Re:Gen Reports in order to make the 2022 Sustainability Report more approachable to a larger and younger audience. In the podcasts, next-generation thinkers discuss important themes from our sustainability report without using business speak.

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Conference of the People, powered by Puma in east London, last September. PA

Putting corporate speak aside, climate milestones are being reached. Puma lowered its emissions from its own offices, shops, and warehouses by 86% compared to its baseline in 2017 (aiming for 90% by 2030), primarily as a result of the purchase of renewable electricity and renewable energy attribute certificates. As part of its participation in the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, the brand pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, at the latest. Less than 2% of organizations presently have a confirmed net-zero aim, with roughly 30% having “committed” to setting one, according to a March status report from the charter.

According to Descours, “our supply chain emissions are more significant than our own emissions and more challenging to reduce.” “As a result, we seek a 33 percent absolute reduction from 2017 to 2030.” Despite seeing a doubling in sales throughout the same period, we were at a reduction of 9% in absolute terms in 2022. The decrease is the result of our supply chain’s introduction of renewable energy and increased use of lower-carbon products like recycled polyester (as opposed to virgin polyester). We had 11 percent renewable energy for our primary Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers as of 2022. By 2025, we want to increase this number by more than double and get to 25%.

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However, the business must continue to improve its bottom line without losing sight of its sustainability goals. “Our absolute reduction in carbon emissions over the last five years, despite the significant growth, shows that the decoupling of growth and emissions is possible,” she said. However, a dedicated effort in collaboration with our suppliers and colleagues in the sector will be required.

Solar panels and lush greenery deck out the Puma outlet and brand store.

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Suppliers are also getting paid. In 2022, Puma’s tier 1 core supplier factories reportedly paid their employees an average wage that was 13.4% above the minimum wage.

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Descours stated, “We provide access to our vendor financing program, a financial help package, to our manufacturers. We have been using this system since 2016. Our suppliers have access to favorable financing terms from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), banking organizations BNP Paribas, HSBC, and Standard Chartered. Suppliers are rewarded with a lower interest rate if they have a good or very good sustainability grade. We are in a good position to support our manufacturers through the vendor finance program now that we have the four banking partners in place. Another company having a vendor connected to sustainability is Levi’s.

Surprisingly, Descours’s detractors are what fuel her motivation in the face of supply chain overhaul demands, along with her suppliers.

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“I support business; I support manufacturing. We have an amazing adventure ahead of us, but in order to advance further and faster, we must work harder, have more confidence in ourselves, and work together more. I’m inspired to keep doing everything I can to make a difference by having three kids who are in their 20s. In our field, we frequently hear criticism from others regarding the things we do and the ways in which we do them. ‘It’s better to make something that others criticize than to create nothing and criticize others,’ says Rick Gervais, one of my recent favorite quotes. As soon as possible, continue striving for improvement and sharing the journey in order for the industry to advance collaboratively.

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Puma suppliers hard at work.

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