2020 was the first year of our new 10FOR25 sustainability strategy. Before the COVID-19 crisis, we saw the interest of our customers, investors, employees, and other stakeholders in our sustainability programs increase significantly. Despite the pandemic, this trend continued and even intensified during 2020, as we launched our first sustainability-focused lighthouse collections in partnership with First Mile and Central St. Martins London.
2020 clearly was dominated by the pandemic. We had started the year with fresh momentum when the virus hit our sourcing and sales market. Our sourcing team worked hard to shift production orders from one country to another while assisting the affected vendors to ensure they were kept afloat financially and workers’ health was protected.
Then the virus spread globally and lockdowns in almost all sales markets brought our business to a halt in April and May. In an effort to ensure PUMA’s financial stability, we worked very closely with our manufacturers and customers to delay orders, extend payment terms and react flexibly to the challenging business environment.
Our established PUMA Vendor Finance Program, which is linked to our suppliers’ sustainability performance, proved very valuable during this time and we saw the amount of financed volume more than double on previous years.
To protect our business partners and their hundreds of thousands of workers, we also refrained from canceling orders. During all of 2020, we canceled less than 1 % of our orders and in the rare cases where we had to cancel orders, we covered the costs for materials and other expenses our suppliers had incurred.
As our People and Organization team was protecting our own staff with strict hygiene measures, an extended work-from-home policy, and flexitime, our sustainability team worked with other brands and our suppliers to ensure our manufacturing partners also applied effective hygiene measures. We closely monitored the number of factories which had to temporarily shut down production and any potential implications for the workers due to the closures.
Having the ability to articulate one’s needs and concerns is a key tenet of human rights. Providing workers with avenues to advocate for themselves is a top priority for PUMA as part of our commitment to being a fair market leader. In addition to the internal PUMA hotline system, in 2020 we continued to promote third-party grievance platforms such as MicroBenefits and Amader Kotha. By December 2020, our worker hotlines counted a record number of 1,122 cases and we succeeded in solving almost all of them.
Throughout the year, we have kept an open dialogue with relevant stakeholders including governments, international organisations and other interested parties, to ensure that our long-standing human rights due diligence mechanisms are updated, communicated and observed, as we are committed to comply with any latest regulations.
Our factory level auditing and capability building programs and environmental protection programs were affected by travel restrictions. Nevertheless, we continued our efforts where possible and managed to record 490 factory audits, 127 facility level Higg Index Environmental Assessments and 125 wastewater tests.
We finished the year by issuing green finance tools for PUMA, by hitting our 2025 target of using 100% more sustainable cotton fabrics already in 2020 and by training our designers on the principles of circularity.
We look forward to overcoming the COVID-19 crisis in 2021 and are determined to accelerate our sustainability journey for our customers, employees, suppliers, investors, and the wider PUMA family. We believe we are stronger together and responsible business conduct is not only an ethical imperative but also makes perfect business sense.