As we celebrate Earth Day today, I’m happy to have helped make the planet a little bit greener thanks to an enormous initiative I was involved in at the adidas Group. The project I was part of has removed approximately 70 million plastic bags from 14,000 adidas stores across 91 countries! Our Brand Sustainability Team announced this project a year ago, and as part of our Global Sales, Retail & Franchise operation, I was given the task of ensuring a proper communication flow and coordination with our markets, including detailed individual follow-ups to make sure the whole globe was on track to fulfil our vision.

“By the end of Q1 2016 we had to make sure there would be no consumer walking out of one of our stores carrying a plastic bag.”

Cascading information to the right people is essential to implementing any large-scale project. In our case this went all the way to the shop floor.

After overcoming the initial shock of being involved in this project, I embraced the challenge and learned some valuable skills on how to approach large-scale projects in a big company.

There’s no such thing as over-communication

Within a global project that affects stores across 91 different countries there is no such thing as over-communication. You have to be aware that the information you provide needs to be cascaded to the right people and often must be translated into local languages. Therefore you need to be as precise, transparent and clear as possible.

“A big company means a lot of stakeholders. Targeting key people who needed to have all the information about the project was key for achieving success.”

The project communication flow can be complex and challenging; therefore it is always good to have a communication plan in place where you outline when to communicate, what and to whom. It’s important to put yourself in the stakeholders’ shoes and try to understand what information they need and at what time in order to fulfil the project target.

Don’t trust silence – you never know what comes next

Every time we thought that we were on track we received a request from a market asking us to help solve an issue – anything from the new bag specifications to supplier sourcing, etc. What is crucial in these situations is to act quickly to make sure that everybody can work towards the deadline. Every market and every country is different in so many ways.

“You need to be flexible, quick, empathetic and solution-oriented to get the required information and decisions to the right people.”

Overall, the journey may have been long and hard – it was a massive effort especially for the markets – but as a result I can say that I am very proud of having been able to contribute to this large-scale project that makes the adidas Group an even more sustainable company. And this is my souvenir! I’ve saved the first paper bag I received from my local store – it will always have a special place in my home to remind me of my exciting and impactful start at the adidas Group.


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by Graham Starkey 22.04.2016
Great story, and an awesome job by you and the team.

Out of interest, what happens with the 70 million bags we have removed from our stores?

by Miguel da Silva 22.04.2016
Great Job, Lisa!
by Nina Weihrauch (Moderator) 22.04.2016
Dear Graham,

thank you for your question.

These 70 million bags will not be produced.

All the best,

by Verena Stark 22.04.2016
Well done, Lisa & Project Team! I love the new bags! :-)
by Andy Middleton 22.04.2016
I applaud that you want to better things. Aim higher though, and work with your customers and ditch the bags completely. My country, Wales, has done it, and I'm sure that you could too.
by Donna Gorman 22.04.2016
This is a very good thing to do for the environment and the animals, because if the plastic bags end up on the ground an animal can get caught in the handles. That is why if I throw any out I cut the handles.
by Adam 22.04.2016
Great to see this initiative on Earth Day this year- Congratulations to Lisa Breinig and Isabell Zwanziger for shepherding this complex project through. By not using plastic bags at retail, adidas is preventing millions of oil-based plastic from being produced and from being discarded in our oceans and in the environment. I urge all of you to bring your own bag when you shop as this is the best way to help our fragile planet!
by Sir J 23.04.2016
But that's the thing. Paper bags are not the better solution.

Not just does it mean more trees must be cut, but also is the overall ecological footprint worse.
by Andrew 25.04.2016
Paper bags are usually a better option for coastal locations since the main victims of plastic bag pollution are sea turtles mistaking them for jellyfish. However, I agree that from everything I know, paper bags have a much worse ecological footprint than plastic bags unless they're produced in some non-traditional paper mill...
by Nina Weihrauch (Moderator) 26.04.2016
Hi Andrew,

Hi Sir J,

Thanks for your comments. You’re right, in general the production of plastic bags is less impactful to the environment than producing paper ones. If you take the big picture into account though, the infrastructure to recycle plastic bags is extremely limited when you look across all the countries we operate in and while paper bags are not the perfect solution, they are widely recyclable and compostable in all markets.

There are a few ways we are mitigating our impact though, for example, we have started using recycled content in our paper bags. In addition to this, the training to store staff now encourages them to ask the customer if they need a bag, rather than automatically assuming the customer needs one, thus reducing the number of bags we use in the first place.

Lastly, our partnership with Parley for the Oceans is centred around improving the health of our oceans by removing plastic from the oceans as well as avoiding using plastic whenever we can. The problem with plastic is that the material can be recycled, but it is not degradable. Plastic stays on this planet forever. Plastic in the oceans can cause significant damage to the marine environment, therefore we see our decision to remove plastic bags from our stores as yet another concrete step to support Parley with their mission.
by Venkatesh 11.05.2016
great information thanks a lot for sharing
by Vinay Patel 01.09.2016
Great efforts to save environments.Keep it up!!!!
by Sam 29.05.2018
Kudos on this move. Two years ago and yet some companies are still playing catch-up with plastic bags, crazy.
by Muhammad Hashir 18.06.2019
Thanks for sharing such helpful content.

I was eager to know about Paper Bag

A paper bag is a pack made of paper, more often than not kraft paper. Paper sacks are generally utilized as shopping packs, bundling, and bags.

by mark 24.04.2021
Great effort to save the environment and to reduce global warming. As pollution is the biggest problem on the earth. So your effort to save this is appreciable.
by Blogs4Shoppers 18.04.2022

Thanks for sharing this information.
Loved the blog!