Anne-Laure Descours

Going faster and further towards FOREVER. BETTER. together

At the beginning of the year, we talked to PUMA's Chief Sourcing Officer Anne-Laure Descours about PUMA’s achievements in sustainability in 2023, and where we will be heading next within PUMA’s FOREVER. BETTER. Strategy.

What made 2023 special from a sustainability perspective?

New perspectives and partnerships. With the launch of our Voices of a RE:GENERATION initiative, we focused on improving how we communicate our sustainability efforts to our GenZ consumers. Through their engagement, the four young changemakers involved in the initiative — Aishwarya, Andrew, Luke and Jade — have challenged us to think differently. Some of my most rewarding time this year was spent listening to their perspectives, reflections and ideas about how we can improve and incorporate their input into PUMA’s 2030 sustainability action plans. The Voices are educating, engaging, and co-creating with PUMA as part of a wide range of projects to help PUMA to communicate about sustainability in a way that resonates with their generation and addresses the things that matter to them and their future. One example is our RE:GEN REPORTS, a podcast series we introduced to improve how we communicate the topics discussed in our sustainability report. This collaboration with the Voices is special; it’s something we haven’t tried before and definitely something we will continue to explore and build on.

The regulatory landscape in the EU is evolving rapidly, resulting in increased pressure on brands. Is PUMA prepared?

PUMA has a strong track record in terms of sustainability, and has been publishing reports on its sustainability performance for over two decades. I am confident that PUMA is well placed to deal with these pressures. However, there’s always room for improvement. We are far from perfect, and we will use this ‘pressure’ as an opportunity to reevaluate the status quo and do things better. Then there is the EU Green Claims Directive and the greenwashing vs greenhushing debate which has resulted in how brands communicate about sustainability coming under increased scrutiny. Scepticism and criticism are par for the course whenever you introduce significant changes, but I firmly believe that it’s better to be criticized for doing something than not doing anything at all. We see this as a great way to level the playing field in the industry. It is an opportunity for us to recalibrate and improve.

PUMA really values partnerships and collaboration. What impact did that have in 2023?

Many of the challenges and opportunities which we face are systemic in nature and need to be tackled at an industry-wide level. Bolstering strategic partnerships and increasing the amount of collaboration and transparency between players in the industry is pivotal if we want to make progress at a faster pace. The efforts we are making to become more circular, for instance, rely on a lot of support from several different partners. Towards the end of 2023 we announced that we will be scaling up our RE:FIBRE programme, with the aim of reducing textile waste and our reliance on recycled plastic bottles as the main material for our garments made of recycled polyester. We worked with a large number of partners to get to this point and they will have an integral part to play as we set up the infrastructure we need to continue this as a viable solution. We also announced the results of our RE:SUEDE experiment, which showed that we can turn an experimental version of our iconic suede sneakers into compost. We published the results of the experiment in a B2B handbook, open-sourcing what we learned to inspire others and get the industry moving with us. We have published other examples which demonstrate the crucial role of partnerships in our Sustainability Report.

What are your hopes and aims in terms of sustainability in 2024?

We have a long way to go, but we don’t have an eternity to get there. We will continue to promote and highlight sustainability throughout the business and will work with our external partners to scale up our efforts and make them more impactful. We will bring others with us on the journey by bolstering partnerships and collaboration, improving our engagement and communicating our efforts, challenges, and progress. While we are on track to meet most of our 10FOR25 targets, we must pick up the pace to ensure that we can get going on the next phase of our 2030 Vision with a running start. There is no finish line when it comes to our responsibility to do better, and we aren’t out there alone on the track; we need others to help us pursue solutions to the challenges we face faster than we could alone. We will also continue to improve our engagement with the next generation by inviting their perspectives and getting them involved in designing the solutions we need today and in the future.