• by Justin DeKoszmovszky, Head of Global Sustainability Strategy & PUMA Vision, PUMA
  • Sep 19, 2013

I want to tell you a quick story about my PUMA suedes and how business model innovation, as Mike outlined in his recent post, may be materializing to change them, the system that produces them and the consumer relationship they embody.

PUMA is focusing on closing the loop and it is one of our top priorities because it is the key to physical sustainability. Why? The E P&L showed us that 57% of our 2010 cradle to gate impact is in Tier 4, raw material creation: mainly growing cotton and raising cattle. So how is my shoe going to tackle 57% of our impact? Closing the loop, completely, means no more virgin cotton or leather. By closing the loop we mean that this shoe, when I have worn it to my heart’s content, and maybe donated it so someone else can wear it to their heart’s content, can be fully recycled into an equal or better shoe. We are not the first to come up with this, nature continues to evolve the most efficient, elegant and inspiring versions.

Closing the loop requires massive innovation across our supply chain to bend it into a material loop, not a linear supply chain. So the story is that the shoe is designed to be re-manufactured with minimal impact. At the molecular level pigments and dies without harmful chemicals are used and re-used. Disassembly is designed-in.

When we source the shoe we do it with strategic suppliers who are transparent and responsible about social and environmental impacts. We will have worked with these suppliers to build mutual capacity to walk the path towards sustainability together, including innovations to manufacture with recycled raw materials.

When we commercialize and sell my shoe we do it in PUMA stores that have Bring Me Back bins (most already do today) or at other retail partners who are also closing the loop. At the end of its life, my beloved old shoe is now valuable raw material. Maybe we don’t even sell my shoe anymore, maybe it is leased or just a part of a brand membership so the business model shifts towards emphasizing behaviors that close the loop as well.

Marketing my shoe will engage consumers deeply and consistently in closing the loop so she or he is not a Pavlovian consumption zombie but an aware, informed, active and key part of the loop. Maybe she’s inputting on our range through crowdsourcing or pre-buying, sharing a link to Bag It, a documentary film we’re featuring (that’s a real film, check it out! or adding her social currency to the efforts of other like-minded consumers all over the world.

The consumer used to be where the story of my Suedes ended, at least from PUMA’s perspective. But not in this future-version. My shoe now has to get re-incarnated so there are new partners like I:Co who we work with to collect my shoe, sort my shoe and get it back to the strategic suppliers we talked about before who can disassemble and recycle the materials in my shoe into my new shoe.

So that is the evolving story of my shoe. It is partly fiction but its promise and challenge inspire and energize us. Our Cradle-to-Cradle™ certified InCycle® collection, an industry first, is a great example of steps in the right direction. We can’t innovate towards this future alone and we welcome partners, contributors and co-authors.

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