Earlier this month, Greenpeace released a new report on the destruction of the Amazon, the world’s most important forest carbon store. “Slaughtering the Amazon” shines a spotlight on the cattle sector in the Brazilian Amazon, which according to Greenpeace, is the largest driver of deforestation in the world, responsible for one in every eight hectares destroyed globally. In addition, the report also alleges that some leather sourced from Brazil originates from illegal cattle ranches that contribute to deforestation. Naturally, a claim like that caught my eye because it raises the fundamental question that now plagues any company committed to greening its products: If you don’t control all aspects of the supply chain, how can you be sure your product is as sustainable as possible?
Liza Casabona deep dives into this issue in her excellent post today at Footwear News. In “New Greenpeace Report Sheds Light on Supply Chain Issues,” Casabona specifically discusses the repercussions of the Greenpeace report among footwear manufacturers –Greenpeace mentions Adidas, Gucci, Nike, Timberland and Clarks as potential, and quite possibly unwitting, end users of the illegally-farmed leather –but the broader question of supply chain integrity applies to businesses of all types.
In today’s complicated global marketplace, where supply chains are becoming increasingly fractured and complex, you have to look deeply into all components to ensure that your products are being manufactured as responsibly as possible. That’s a challenge, to be sure. But, as more and more companies begin to realize the business benefits of sustainability, industry leaders and best practices are beginning to emerge as models.
“[Sustainability] is becoming a requirement of good business practices, just like minimum wage did,” says Craig Throne, VP of marketing for the outdoor group at Wolverine World Wide, in the article.
Barry McGeough, former head of The North Face footwear and consultant for footwear and outdoor brands, agrees. “The steps to setting up a [green] supply chain are defining what exists and then innovating what doesn’t exist,” he says. “That has to happen at a brand level. The good news is, consumers are willing to reward brands that do it.”