The adidas Sustainability Series
Taking real action in sustainability today means reducing the plastic waste of tomorrow. Teams across adidas have worked on innovating new sustainable materials and processes that are better not only for adidas but also for our industry, paving the way for a circular future of sports.
Today, James Carnes, VP of Brand Strategy, shares the adidas Three Loop Strategy to end plastic waste and scale circular efforts to make sustainable clothing mainstream. Join him in the adidas sustainable materials library.
Video transcript with James Carnes, VP of Brand Strategy:
I can teach my kids a lot about the facts, what decisions they could make. What they teach me very clearly is this simple logic and discipline about living and doing the right thing. For them, it’s obvious. Why would you ever choose a plastic straw again? It’s baked into their DNA as they grow up. For them, there is no choice. You do the right thing.
Every single one of these projects brought together hundreds of people in adidas. What’s unique about this is that while the initial idea might come from a startup or one person, the call to action is bigger than anything I’ve seen. That’s pretty unique.
How you end plastic waste is a really big task. That’s where we look at three ways that we start to build up the ability to end plastic waste.
The ‘Three Loop’ Strategy
It’s pretty easy, but it requires different levels of scale and technology and science behind the three different loops.
1. Recycled loop – made from recycled materials:
The first loop is recycling. That’s the first, most available task for us to get after.
That’s building product like this shoe made out of all recycled materials that we offered to football teams during the Super Bowl LIV.
Instead of using virgin polyester or fresh material to build the product, we source the material from another available stream that’s recycled. Recycled polyester is our number one goal there. We also get on to other recycled materials.
2015 was the first time we partnered with Parley for the Oceans to create the first-ever running shoe made with recycled plastic waste, collected from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the oceans. Within this partnership we introduced Primeblue and Primegreen performance fabrics, where 100% of the polyester used is recycled.
2. Circular loop – made to be remade:
Even if you had 100% of your materials recycled, you would still be creating product that ends up in a landfill, so you’re not ending plastic waste. The second loop is the circular loop. That’s where you create product like the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP running shoe (other prototype concepts include the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP anorak jacket).
Here, the challenge is to create a shoe that’s made to be remade. While these are made from recycled materials or made with Parley Ocean Plastic, these have to be made to be remade, which means that you can take the product and completely recycle all of the ingredients and put them back into the supply chain.
To do that, you have to invent new materials and new processes. In the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP, you have all one material for the shoe. This is all TPU, the outsole, the Torsion bar, Boost , the upper, and even the laces and the sockliner are all made out of TPU. Then, you have to make sure it doesn’t get glued together because glue is the number one contaminant if you try to recycle something.
3. Regenerative loop – made to regenerate:
Now, let’s say we get everything recycled and we make all of our products and design them so that they can be remade, you have the final challenge, which is: what if things don’t end up going back into the loop? What if they get out of the loop? For that, the ultimate goal, the holy grail is that these materials can return to nature.
The third loop is the regenerative loop or the bionic loop as we’ve called it as well. There, you’re making products out of natural materials or they’re made to biodegrade. Here, you work with partners like Bolt Threads to create new yarns out of protein that can be engineered for specific purposes.
I’ll show you this example here. This is this biofabric tennis dress that we made and launched last year at Wimbledon together with Stella McCartney. Here, you can see that the entire garment is made out of this biofabricated microsilk, as they call it. You’re able to engineer a garment for high performance. You can see all of the different zones built into the dress. It has a beautiful fit. It was worn by one of our top athletes.
Our ambition to end plastic waste
Going a step further, we have the target to reduce carbon by 30% by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050.
If you think of the impact of that, that’s massive because that means completely reengineering our entire business so that we can still grow in terms of profit and financial growth while reducing our impact on the environment.
The thing we try to do with this mission to end plastic waste is make it accessible. It’s something that everybody can do. There’s a lot of things in the world where you feel like your opinion or point of view doesn’t add up. In this case, there’s a physical, measurable impact that you have as a person, and you can change that on a daily basis.
The adidas Sustainability Story – Leading the Change
How adidas is driving innovative sustainable solutions designed to transform our industry and our planet.Learn more