Puma is stepping up its efforts to make its business more sustainable. Among its latest moves is an agreement with 20 of its strategic suppliers in South East Asia that they will produce their own sustainability reports from next year on. The project is set up in partnership with The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a specialist organization that will advise the factories on sustainability reporting and ways to improve their operations in this respect.

The twenty suppliers picked for this project in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and several other countries make about two thirds of Puma products. This initiative could help to address recurrent criticism that sports companies produce slick sustainability reports while they have little control on the methods used by their suppliers.

Puma has already been working with GRI since 2006, with a pilot project that involved three Puma suppliers in South Africa. Imphala Clothing, a Puma apparel manufacturer in Cape Town, was distinguished for the quality of its sustainability reports and became the first carbon-neutral garment supplier in Africa last year.

Earlier this year Puma set itself a target of becoming the most sustainable company in the sports business and at an environment conference in Seoul last month it added that it wanted to become carbon-neutral this year already. In this context, Puma has responded to the plea of the United Nations Environment Program (Unep), which called for football federations to offset the impact of their international travels to South Africa for the football World Cup. Puma will compensate for the direct and indirect emissions of its seven participating teams through several offsetting African projects – all supervised by recognized auditing companies. Going beyond the Unep’s call, Puma will also offset the impact of all its local travel and accommodation for the World Cup.

In this context, Puma acquired a stake of 20.1 percent in Wilderness Holding, an eco-tourism company based in Botswana and Johannesburg. Unfortunately, the investment triggered an unsavory row as Survival International, an organization supporting tribal peoples, alleging that land used by Wilderness to build a tourist lodge had been snatched from local bushmen. This provoked a particularly harsh rebuke by Jochen Zeitz, Puma’s chief executive, who called the claims wholly unfounded and snappily relayed views that the allegations showed unimpressive professional and ethical standards on Survival’s behalf.

Consumers themselves are being given the opportunity to help determine which bioversity programs should benefit from the sales of Puma’s Unity range. Supported by an advertising campaign featuring Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o, Puma and Unep are launching an online poll that will enable consumers to vote for their favored project.

The company’s new head office in Herzogenaurach could already be regarded as carbon-neutral. It is equipped with electricity from renewable sources, and remaining emissions are offset through Puma’s support of a wind farm in Turkey. Puma has been compiling information on its carbon footprint from all its offices and stores in the last five years. Furthermore, the company said it would support employees who strive to offset their personal carbon footprints by subsidizing half of the emissions generated on their commute to work. On the other hand, Puma’s carbon neutral plans do not include emissions caused by the transportation of Puma products.

As part of the wider efforts deployed by the company to instill sustainable thinking in all aspects of its business, Puma has introduced a new packaging system using more environmentally friendly materials and combining the functions of a shoe box and a plastic bag, as previously reported.

PPR, the French group that owns Puma, has come up with its own prize for innovation and sustainable development, rewarding initiatives within its own organization. The top award went to a project for the construction of a carbon-neutral Puma store in India.