An Introduction to SSC's Athletic Wear Peer Benchmarking Analysis

By: Alexandra Kueller

Earlier this week, we posted a blog highlighting what you should know about peer benchmarking. Today, we step further into the process behind SSC’s peer benchmarking process and examine SSC’s most recent benchmarking analysis: the athletic wear industry.

Athletic Wear Benchmarking Process

In August 2014, SSC completed a peer benchmarking analysis of the athletic wear industry that examined the sustainability performance of five prominent brands: Adidas, Lululemon, Nike, Puma, and Under Armour. During this process, we focused on six different dimensions of sustainability with four categories as a part of each dimension:

  • Governance - Materiality, Ethics, Risk, Communications
  • Environment - Energy & Climate, Waste & Recycling, Water, Land Use & Biodiversity
  • Workplace - Diversity, Health & Safety, Training & Education, Working Conditions
  • Community - Philanthropy, Volunteering, Community Investment, Engagement
  • Product - Life Cycle Management, Product Quality, Product Safety, Packaging
  • Supply Chain - Materials Stewardship, Green Purchasing, Social Standards, Engagement

Not only did we assign four categories to each dimension, but for thoroughness we applied a three prong analysis to each dimension reviewing policies, programs, and performance to each category.

It is also important to note that SSC relies only on publically available data when conducting a peer benchmarking assessment.

What We Discovered

Each company has the opportunity to achieve a perfect score of 144 points, with each category and dimension being equally weighted. When the benchmarking was all said and done, each company’s point total contributed to an overarching theme that was present throughout the analysis: there is a clear distinction between the sustainability leaders and the sustainability laggards.

The Sustainability Leaders

  • Nike – 99 points
  • Adidas – 96 points
  • Puma – 83 points

The Sustainability Laggards

  • Lululemon – 43 points
  • Under Armour – 17 points

The difference between the two sets of companies makes sense. The top three companies are large businesses are have been producing sustainability reports annually for at least the last few years and have wealth of resources on their website. The bottom two companies are midsize companies that have not produced a formal sustainability report and have more moderate sustainability websites.

A few of the trends we noticed from our analysis was that the supply chain and environment dimensions are two of the strongest dimensions across all companies - regardless of size. But size does matter when it comes to some dimensions. The workplace dimension had excellent scores for the large companies, but it was also one of the lowest-scoring dimension for the midsize companies.

Starting on Monday, SSC will diver into each dimension to focus more on the findings from our analysis. Up first? Governance!

Diversity is important for any business, but can it help a company's sustainability? Read about the business case for diversity here.