One day, a report about plastic microbeads in body care products caught my attention. It bothered me that a few of our products were mentioned because, due to the cooperation with Parley, reducing plastic waste is close to my heart. Without losing time, we got to work and achieved a result that makes me proud.
But meeting Cyrill Gutsch was something special. Different departments had been in contact with an organization called Parley for the Oceans and I was asked to look into a potentially larger and closer collaboration with them. The topic of ocean plastic was interesting as firstly it supported a great cause – protecting and cleaning our oceans – and secondly it also provided the opportunity to make products manufactured from ocean plastic accessible to our consumers across categories. We exchanged a couple of mails, spoke briefly on the phone and finally met in Herzogenaurach in February 2015.
Enhancing people’s lives instead of restricting them
I was immediately impressed by his passion for saving the oceans that he puts at the center of all his activities. He gave up his former career in the creative industry to dedicate all of his efforts to one cause: saving the oceans. Talking to him it became so obvious that we need to avoid using unnecessary plastic, that we need to collect used plastic and that we need to recycle the collected plastic – and that we then finally will have to reinvent plastic in general.
“And what struck me most is that he wanted to do it in a way that enhances people’s lives rather than restricting them.”
Lots of education, support for NGOs, funding of research and permanently looking for different and better solutions. The more I worked with him, the more I started looking around for opportunities in my personal and professional area to support the cause. As a company, we had announced that we will stop using plastic bags and we have even got rid of plastic water bottles for meetings in Herzogenaurach. Privately, I started to avoid using plastic bags and reduce packaged food as well. Not easy, I can tell you.
Small beads, huge impact
While we are working on a wide variety of projects and initiatives with Parley for the Oceans to eco-innovate the way we design, produce and promote our products, I was looking at ways to make immediate changes happen. I became impatient and a Greenpeace report about microbeads in body care products caught my attention because adidas products were on that list. Only few versions of our shower gel contain microbeads, but these are products we sell a lot of. Of course we were not the only ones on the list. A lot of major body care brands still have products on the market containing microbeads, extremely small plastic pieces in particle sizes from 10 µm to 1.000 µm (1 mm). Those microbeads are washed down the drain, pass unfiltered through the sewage treatment plants and make their way into rivers and canals, resulting in plastic particle water pollution. Some of our competitors have already announced they will stop selling them as by the end of 2017. But in the context of our Parley partnership it was clear to me that we couldn’t continue offering products with microbeads. As the body care license sits within my area of responsibility, we immediately contacted Coty, our licensee, and started working with them on an exit plan. Their R&D department started developing new formulas, and at the end of October 2015 we got their confirmation:
By January 1, 2016, adidas and its license partner Coty will end the use of plastic microbeads in adidas body care products.
Two years ahead of some of the biggest players in the body care industry! A great achievement of our licensee Coty that shows that we can find alternatives and reduce plastic ocean pollution.