business corporate responsibility design

PUMA experiments with cradle to cradle design

Last year I went on a hunt for biodegradeable trainers, after learning that your average shoe will sit in landfill for a thousand years once you’re done with it. I got some in the end, but it’s a pretty niche market and none of the big sportswear companies had made any serious progress on sustainable footwear.

That changes this week with the news that PUMA are to launch a range of products. It includes a shoe, shirts, a jacket and a backpack.

The shoe, the Incycle Basket, is around 35% better for the environment than its suede equivalent. It is made from organic cotton and linen, with a sole made of APINATbio©. That’s a form of bioplastic, apparently, which can be recycled or composted. You can return the trainer to the company and they will shred it and compost it.

The track jacket is made of recycled polyester, including the zip. At the end of its life it can be melted down and made into new polyester granulate, ready to make something else. The backpack is the same. Return it to PUMA, and they’ll melt it down and make another backpack.

In order for those things to get recycled properly, you do need to return them. That’s made easy by the company’s new Bring Me Back program, which is running in Germany at the moment. Bring Me Back supplies bins in sportswear outlets. You can put old shoes and clothes of any brand in there, and PUMA will take it away for recycling.

PUMA are a long way from being a sustainable company, but this is just the kind of experiment they should be running if they are going to become one. It builds on their rather pioneering Environmental Profit and Loss accounting system that they’ve already developed, which suggests they are serious about sustainability. Anyone can rattle off a special edition recycled shoe. Not everyone is prepared to fundamentally change the way they do their corporate reporting.

Of course, the environment is just one part of ethical business. Labour is another, and PUMA has a way to go in that department too. But it’s a start. One day, all trainers will be made this way.

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