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Sports apparel maker Puma is giving leather the boot.

After calculating the true, full end-to-end cost of including different materials in its products, Puma announced in June that it is phasing out leather from its products.

(I missed this news in the whole Rio+20 UN Sustainable Development conference media avalanche so I’m just catching up on it now.)

Puma is one of the few companies that has committed to publishing an environmental profit and loss statement. Its first report in November 2011 attaches monetary costs to the environmental impact of each step in its operations and supply chains.

To its credit, the company has decided that leather costs too much in environmental impact, so it won’t be used anymore.

Via ft.com:

Puma to kick leather into touch
Puma will have to stop using leather in its famous football boots and trainers because it is such an environmentally damaging product, the sportswear company’s executive chairman has said.

The measure showed the production and processing of raw materials was the biggest contributor to Puma’s environmental footprint, said Mr Zeitz, “with leather being the biggest impact driver”.

That is partly because cattle ranching soaks up water supplies and requires land to be cleared, which can affect plant and wildlife species, and also because of the chemicals and contaminants associated with leather tanneries.

But it’s important to remember that Puma isn’t really focused on “zero leather.”

Pulling leather out of the equation lets the company continue to produce goods, probably more goods, for increased revenues.

Just with a lighter carbon footprint overall.

As a society, in the pursuit of growth and enterprise, we as a society tend to go for “more.”

Reducing or ceasing consumption is not a popular topic of conversation, but it is an important one.

In the meantime, I think that efforts from companies like Puma to get to  “less” represent steps in the right direction to a more sustainable future.

Mark your calendars.

Here are upcoming NYC & Northern NJ events centered on Business Sustainability, Corporate Responsibility, and Social Enterprise.

Sept. 21
“Springing beyond Rio+20: Toward a True Global Compact for Sustainable Development”
Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Institute for Sustainable Enterprise
Madison, NJ
view.fdu.edu/default.aspx?id=5033

Sept. 21
GoGreenNYC
NYC
newyork.gogreenconference.net/program
@gogreenconf

Sept. 24-30
Climate Week NYC
www.climateweeknyc.org
@ClimateWeekNYC

Oct 2-3
COMMIT!Forum 2012
CR Magazine
www.commitforum.com
@commitforum

Oct. 3
2012 Innovation Summit: “Sustainability through Innovation”
FDU’s Institute of Enterpreneurship/The Institute for Sustainable Enterprise
Madison, NJ
view.fdu.edu/default.aspx?id=3712

Oct. 5
2012 Social Enterprise Conference
Columbia Business School
NYC
www.columbiasocialenterprise.org/conference2012/
@SEProgram

Oct. 15-19
After Rio+20: Moving Beyond 2015:Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties in a Post Rio+20 Future
Ramapo College Masters Program in Sustainability Studies
Mahwah, NJ
afterrioplus20.eventbrite.com

Nov. 9
Global Conference for Social Change: Making the Business Case for Sustainability
NYC Stern School of Business/Foundation for Social Change
NYC
www.stern.nyu.edu/experience-stern/news-events/global-conference-change-2012
foundationchange.org
@FoundChange

 

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, right?

Cardinal rule of running an efficient, profitable business.

That means the rise of sustainability reporting among U.S. companies is good news for a cleaner, healthier world.

A sustainability report is like the company’s Annual Report, only it covers economic, environmental, social and governance performance instead of financial performance.

Most major U.S. brands issue sustainability reports, like Kraft for example.

(Increasingly, these two reports are combined to give investors a full picture of the company’s activities, like Pepsico does. That’s called integrated reporting.)

Via CRSwire.com:

Telling the Story of Your Sustainability Journey Through a CSR Report

The publication of corporate sustainability (or responsibility) reports by U.S. corporations (and U.S.-based subsidiaries of non-U.S. companies) is on the increase.  Our analysis for reports published in 2011 — include reports published in calendar year 2011 — is at 345 – and we’re half way through 2012 and expect many more reports to be added to our count for 2011.

It’s about time too, since the U.S. lags in reporting behind the rest of the world.

Via KPMG.com:

KPMG Corporate Sustainability study

Ninety-five percent of the 250 largest companies in the world (G250 companies) now report on their corporate responsibility (CR) activities, two-thirds of non-reporters are based in the U.S.

What’s driving sustainability reporting by U.S. companies?

I attended an EnvironmentalLeader.com webinar yesterday and this very question came up. Marjella Alma from GRI (Global Reporting Institute) gave the following explanations.

Sustainability reporting among U.S. companies is on the rise because of:

  1. Increasing stakeholder demand for this data
  2. Preparing for potential regulatory developments that will mandate reporting
  3. Growing positive interest from investor community
  4. Recognition that reporting Sustainability activities is a competitive advantage with sustainability-minded customers
  5. Opportunity to better identify risks and opportunities
  6. Reduced operating costs.

In other words, sustainability reporting is less about managing risk and more about taking a strategic position.

It’s coming down to the simple fact that running a business that’s good for the planet and people, is also good for business.

I had the absolute pleasure of attending a breakfast seminar this morning hosted by the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ. Attendees represented the entire Sustainability space from big industry, academia, and research to innovative small businesses.

Helen Crowley, Conservation & Ecosystem Services Specialist for mega-conglomerate PPR (owner of Puma and Gucci brands, among others) presented a fascinating lecture called “The Convergence of Business and Biodiversity Conservation.” Link to presentation slides.

In a nutshell, if major corporations have all the money, and are responsible for significant ecological and environmental degradation, then it’s in everyone’s best interests for conservation supporters to work with them instead of in opposition. Crowley argued that this convergence of resources, research and responsibilities breaks new ground towards solving global environmental challenges.

In a truly lucky stroke for attendees, Crowley came to the breakfast after spending the last three days in NYC at a global Sustainability Summit hosted by consulting firm KPMG. She shared a link for the summit’s keynote report, Expect the Unexpected: Building Business Value in a Changing World.

This report offers thought-provoking analysis on 10 sustainability “megaforces” facing businesses in the next 20 years and the emergence of environmental cost accounting. (Required reading! Download it now!)

Moreover, it will be a foundation document for the upcoming June 2012 Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainability.

Crowley raised enormously important questions about balancing human consumption with ecological preservation. What happens when an entire supply chain’s true environmental costs are measured and accounted for? How do you even do that? Is profit still possible? How can the conservation arena best create metrics to accurately calculate the value of ecological services? Who is responsible for the full positive and negative impact of  goods and services on a global scale?

In her work at sport apparel brand Puma, Crowley is starting to dig into those questions. She offered her company’s first Environmental P&L statement  as an example of how companies are moving in the right direction. Since this era of global impact transparency is just picking up steam, Crowley had few hard results to share with the group. She did, however, point towards solutions centered on innovative and improved processes, products, materials and sourcing.

I’m inspired by the emergence of integrated reporting–whereby quarterly guidance goes away in favor of longer-term projections and sustainable investments garner more weight. (See Reuter’s coverage of Vice President Al Gore’s Feb. 16 call for sustainable capitalism.)

As Drucker so famously said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” I’m all in for conversations that give companies strategic information they didn’t have before to improve people’s lives, the planet’s health, and business profits.