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More than a decade ago, Puma launched a social and environmental sustainability campaign that included several green initiatives. The company’s long-term commitment to green business practices has produced several innovations, including its methods of sourcing raw materials from Cotton Made in Africa—a project that promotes sustainable cotton farming in Africa—and opening the first carbon-neutral headquarters in the industry. Puma’s most recent advance replaces traditional shoeboxes with a reusable bag/box combination, the Clever Little Bag, that protects shoes, from the factory door to the customer’s closet.

Created by industrial designer Yves Béhar, the bag is the solution selected from among more than 2,000 ideas and approximately 40 prototypes. PUMA projects the design will cut the company’s paper use by 65 percent and reduce the amount of water, energy, and diesel used during manufacturing by at least 60 percent annually. Because the box and bag constitute one unit, the company also has eliminated the need for a shopping bag for purchased shoes.

The benefits of the Clever Little Bag do not stop there. The new package design weighs less than traditional shoe boxes, which reduces shipping costs and saves hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel each year. PUMA also switched from polyethylene to greener materials for its apparel shopping bags and gave its t-shirts an extra fold to decreasing packaging size. These efforts keep 29 million plastic bags from becoming postconsumer waste and reduce both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions during transport. PUMA intends to employ 100 percent sustainable materials in its packaging by 2015.

Consumer reaction to the new packaging, however, is mixed. Some detractors point out that it still contains most of a box, albeit without a top, while others wonder why nearly two years were needed to develop a solution already employed by the British Shoe Corporation. “A good example of greenwash,” commented one consumer, and another found it “sad … that companies don’t think of these small things and big consequences before putting products on the market.” These comments clearly indicate the challenges corporations face when publicizing their sustainability messages.

Discussion Questions

1. Is PUMA’s Clever Little Bag an example of sustainable sourcing or greenwashing?

“Sustainable Packaging: PUMA Launches New Green Packaging and Distribution,” Packaging Digest, April 13, 2010; http://vision.puma.com/us/en/2010/04/puma-launches-new-sustainable-packaging-designed-by-yves-behar/