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Puma seeks leather substitute to save environment

Sportswear brand Puma has said it will “one day” stop using leather in its footwear and football boots because it is so damaging to the environment, according to the company’s chief executive Jochen Zeitz.

Speaking to the Financial Times at the UN Rio+20 earth summit, Zeitz said: “I think eventually we’ll have to look at alternative materials, there’s no question about it.”

He added that the company is looking at innovative ways of producing the raw materials for its footwear without “asking nature to do it for us”.

“It may sound crazy, but maybe there’s an economic way of producing a leather like product in a laboratory.”

Last year, the company unveiled an “environmental impact profit and loss account”, which valued the environmental impact of its operations and supply chain at €145m (£117m). Puma reported sales of €821m (£659.2m) in the first quarter of 2012.

The “account” showed that processing raw materials and production make the biggest contribution to the company’s environmental footprint, with leather being the worst culprit. This is due to cattle ranches, which use large quantities of water and require land to be cleared of plants and wildlife, and cause contamination through chemicals associated with tanneries.

An environmental pioneer, Zeitz has also introduced meat-free Mondays in the canteens at Puma’s offices as well as reducing his own meat consumption by 80%.

Zeitz was one of a number of prominent figures who gathered at the UN Rio+20 conference to share ideas on sustainable business practices. It is named after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

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