Reiner Hengstmann directs the PUMA company's safe supply chain model. At this year's DW Global Media Forum he will take part in a panel discussion on "Changing Economic Values - Green Economy, CSR and Human Rights".
As Global Head of Environmental and Social Affairs at PUMA, Reiner Hengstmann is responsible for the footwear and sports apparel company's "puma.safe" supply chain. The "safe" in the name stands for Social Accountability and Fundamental Environmental Standards. In an interview he explains the company's sustainability culture and strategy, and puts his view on the future of growth.
DW: Mr. Hengstmann, you're currently based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. How relevant is that location to your role at PUMA?
Reiner Hengstmann:Ninety percent of PUMA products are made in Asia, so it's important that I stay close to the manufacturers. From here I can respond immediately to any problems that may arise. When putting together the puma.safe team I wanted to make sure we had all categories of concern covered. So we have lawyers on the team, environmental engineers and myself as a chemist.
Puma endeavors to be the "most sustainable sport-lifestyle company". What exactly does that mean? Where does sustainability start?
For me sustainability begins at my desk. It starts with me paying attention to how I use my resources here and doesn't stop until the very end of our supply chain. I'm in constant communication with those in charge and we work continuously on integrating sustainability into our operations. That also applies to all my colleagues globally. You could say, every individual starts on their own doorstep and together we take care of the bigger picture. That's the way to do it.
PUMAVision is at the center of your sustainability activities. It is guided by four key values: "Fair, Honest, Positive and Creative". How do you bring those buzzwords to life?
Most of all I think that we set a good example in our supply chain to implement and live out the four values. The social, work and environmental standards in our factories are essential to our sustainability strategy. The only way to produce sustainable products and report with integrity on PUMA's own sustainability initiatives is with great transparency about the conditions in our factories. For us it's not only about "green" sustainability. The social aspect is a very important part of it. We are working on a number of projects to drive forward capacity building and fair wages.
Are the origins and pathways of your products fully traceable?
For certain products that's still a problem, for example when leather is involved. For the tanneries we work with, we can trace the product path back to the slaughterhouse, but the traceability ends there.
Doesn't that cast doubt on company credibility?
Despite all the gaps that still exist, I'm certain that the awareness of a multinational company's responsibilities has changed. "Business as usual is no option" is our guiding principle. That’s why we drew up an environmental profit and loss account and formulated new priorities, such as building the capacity of our suppliers. We are convinced that our strategy will pay off.
A German newspaper recently ran a cover story headlined "Growth is not everything (anymore)". If that were so, what do you think would still need to happen?
I believe that growth based solely on profit has run its course. It won't stand a chance in the future because it happens at the expense of natural resources. We can't afford to stand still, of course, but growth must be sustainable to have a future.