Image: Mathias Beugnon, Flickr (creative commons)
Fast fashion is a term we all should be familiar with by now. Documentaries such as ‘The True Cost’ and movements such as Eco-Fashion Week and Fashion Revolution UK have opened consumers eyes about the implications of buying throw-away attire. Fast fashion focuses on speed and low costs in order to deliver new collections on a regular basis. To name a few of the extremely harmful practices often used to create fast fashion; water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals, textile waste and water depletion. Fast fashion also disrupts the increasingly important sustainability goal of having a circular economy (Boulding, K. 1966). The basic principles of a circular economy are to reduce, reuse and recycle the resources used in production processes. This phrase isn’t exactly new, personally I learned about this concept in primary school through a rather catchy song “The 3 R’s” by Jack Johnson (good luck trying to get that out of your head). Yet incorporating the 3 R’s into business practices, and making a profit, can seem a lot harder to achieve.
This is where PUMA found an extremely clever campaign, which is a great lesson for other businesses. Back in 2013, PUMA created an ‘InCycle’ range of products that was certified by the Cradle to Cradle institute. Eight heritage PUMA product ranges were redesigned to create nineteen, 100% biodegradable or recycled, products. For anyone who knows about product manufacturing, this was a fantastic achievement which took a lot of time and hard work.
PUMA faced many obstacles in designing these products, just one example being the fact that threads used to sew together their shoes were often polyester. After teaming up with other companies, PUMA was able to design a biodegradable cotton thread and use it for the InCycle range. The fact the campaign was certified by Cradle to Cradle meant consumers could have a high degree of confidence in the claim of sustainability.
PUMA didn’t stop here on its quest for sustainability; ‘Bring Me Back’ was another campaign launched where consumers could bring their worn-out products back into a store to be disposed of sustainably. The InCycle biodegradable shoes were composted within 6 months, with some plants even capturing the methane produced and reusing it. The efforts from Puma in-store were also met with succinct marketing campaigns, for example consumers could write an obituary for their old clothes on the Puma website to add humour to the campaign.
Puma’s efforts to contribute to a circular economy helped change consumer behaviour in regard to fast fashion and the 3 R’s, but also change manufacturing processes through the innovation of sustainable methods. These campaigns from Puma have left a legacy, with the aim of other fashion businesses to see the profit in sustainability and aim to out due Puma. The work of the WBCSD has helped, with the Materials Marketplace being a platform for business-to-business industrial reuse of materials.
By Millie Bland