Sports brand Puma has told the international news site Leatherbiz that that recent comments from its executive director, Jochen Zeitz, that appear to criticize the leather industry are a repeat of previous messages from the company.
Mr. Zeitz travelled to Rio de Janeiro at the end of June for the United Nations Rio+20 earth summit. In conversation there with the Financial Times, he said: “We should eat less meat, all of us, and we should use less leather. We all know that cattle and beef are among the biggest contributors to carbon emissions. We have to find alternative ways of producing our raw materials without asking nature to do it for us.”
He went on to say that Puma, part of the PPR Group, has carried out analysis that shows that the biggest environmental impact in its value chain occurs among its tier-four suppliers, those who source raw materials from nature, including the cattle that are the source of its leather. He told the Financial Times that leather was “the biggest impact driver”.
Parent group PPR has given all of its brands detailed targets for improving the sustainability of their products. Specific to leather, they will have to monitor supplier tanneries to make sure no raw material being made into leather for PPR brands has a link to illegally deforested land, including land used to grow foodstuffs for cattle. Exotic skins must come from approved projects that protect animals and respect their habitats. However, no PVC, from which many synthetic substitute materials are made, will be allowed in PPR brands’ products. Brands have until 2016 to comply.
Puma continued that it was already preparing to make 50% of its of its products in accordance with its own sustainability standards, collectively called the S-Index, by 2015. It said it aimed to use more recycled polyester because of “the enormous environmental impact of raw material production”.
In the days following the publication of Mr. Zeitz’s comments in the newspaper, Puma issued a statement, saying: “Over half of all environmental impacts along Puma’s global supply chain are associated with the production of raw materials, including leather. These impacts are mainly caused by methane emissions and land use due to cattle farming.”
It said it has been researching for alternative materials and “more environmentally friendly methods of raw material sourcing” for some time. Alternatives include the use of substitute and recycled materials if it can do so without any loss in quality. It also said it wants “more sustainable production of conventional materials” and warned that it will terminate the contracts “of suppliers and countries that do not guarantee to refrain from clearing rainforests for the cultivation of raw materials”.
The company said it would work with other industry players to pursue these aims and insisted that it requires “the engagement of the whole industry to implement sustainable production and cultivation practices”.