Carbon Neutrality at adidas: How our Sustainability Strategy Will Get Us There
adidas' Senior Vice President of Sustainability, Katja Schreiber, outlines the company’s sustainability strategy and its path towards carbon neutrality by 2050.
The adidas Sustainability Series
As someone who works in the field of sustainability, I know that every decision counts: be it my choice of lunch options, mode of transportation when meeting friends, or the temperature I select when turning on the washing machine.
We all make many of these decisions every day, decisions that have an impact on our personal carbon footprint. But I know that choosing the sustainable option in these sorts of personal choices is not enough.
That is part of what attracted me to an adidas sustainability role. As one of the largest and most influential companies in the sportswear industry, we can lead the way to carbon neutrality.
We know that our consumers are essential and active members of the team. Over 70% of adidas consumers identify sustainability as an important purchase driver. They expect companies like adidas to drive solutions at scale, which is exactly what we are focused on. We want them to know that at adidas, sustainability is as important to us as it is to them. That’s why we continue to push the boundaries.
As part of our 2025 strategy, Own the Game, adidas’ sustainability focus is moving from strong, standalone initiatives to a comprehensive consumer-facing sustainability program at scale. The overarching objective is to achieve carbon neutrality across our entire supply chain by 2050. Here’s a behind-the-scenes view of what we are working on.
9 out of 10 articles will feature sustainable elements
“By 2025, 9 out of 10 adidas articles will feature a sustainable technology, material, design, or manufacturing method. Currently, about 6 out of 10 of our products fulfill these sustainability criteria. ”
Fashion is one of the most polluting industries, and – along with our partners – we are working hard to change this. Our aim is to create sustainable, fashionable performance wear.
By 2025, 9 out of 10 adidas articles will feature a sustainable technology, material, design, or manufacturing method. Currently, about 6 out of 10 of our products fulfill these sustainability criteria.
Getting to 9 out of 10 requires us to rethink how we design and create products. To keep things simple for our consumers, our sustainable product innovations revolve around three loops.
1. Recycled Loop
The Recycled Loop features products that are made in part with recycled materials such as recycled polyester. Currently, over 70% of the polyester used in our apparel and footwear is recycled. By 2024, we will use exclusively recycled polyester wherever possible. We’ve made tremendous progress in bringing the recycled loop to scale, and we continue building on this momentum.
2. Circular Loop
The Circular Loop includes products that are made to be worn, returned, ground up, and remade into new products. After three generations of prototypes, Made to Be Remade (MTBR) is now available in Ultra Boosts, Free Hikers, and most recently Stan Smiths. We are pleased to be successfully recycling products made from single materials. Next steps include innovating products made from multiple materials and increasing numbers to drive impact at scale.
In the meantime, we have also launched ‘Choose to Give Back’, a resale program for worn products. Starting in October of 2021 in the United States, clothing, shoes, and accessories in any condition and made by any brand can be sent to us. Products in good condition are resold through our collaborator, thredUP with the aim of finding a new owner for as many products as possible. This program is part of our commitment to extend the lifecycle of our products. Going forward, we’ll scale the program to include markets besides the United States.
3. Regenerative Loop
“The Regenerative Loop products are made in part with natural and renewable materials. We call these products Made with Nature.”
The Regenerative Loop products are made in part with natural and renewable materials. We call these products Made with Nature. The first product from this loop was launched in spring of 2021: the Stan Smith Mylo. This prototype is made from mycelium, a mushroom-based material that performs like leather. We have other exciting innovations in the works in collaboration with our partners, which include Spinnova, Pond, and Infinited Fiber.
Low-impact, low-carbon range
Beyond our big 9 out of 10 target with these three loops and our focus on sustainable materials, we will also create a low-impact, low-carbon range. In May 2021, we collaborated with Allbirds to develop a performance shoe with the lowest-ever carbon footprint. Manufacturing a pair of these running shoes only uses 2.94 kilograms of CO2. This is 63% less than the emissions produced in creating a comparable running shoe. In 2022, we’ll commercialize a low-impact range, again with the goal of scaling as fast as we can. The progress we make on the product side is key in mitigating our impact on our planet.
Carbon neutrality by 2050
In conjunction with these initiatives, we are working towards our ultimate goal of carbon neutrality.
We don’t have all the answers. But we are passionately working on how to get there and have clear milestones set for 2025. By then, we’ll reduce our carbon footprint by an average of 15% per product compared to 2017 levels.
An end-to-end process
In this realm, our team approach is essential since 80% of the emissions generated in the creation of our products occur during the manufacturing phase. When we mention carbon neutrality, we are talking across the entire supply chain.
To address this, we are closely partnering with our suppliers, for instance, to reduce coal dependency by installing rooftop solar energy systems. Additionally, we are looking for ways to reduce the need for energy in the first place. This involves challenging our own design and manufacturing practices. Some examples include reducing waste in material patterns and coming up with new ways to dye fabrics.
In our own locations, we’re well on our way to reaching carbon neutrality. We reduced our CO2 emissions by 50% in our own sites between 2015 and 2020. By 2025, we are committed to being carbon neutral in all of our own operations. This includes offices, distribution centers, and over 2000 stores around the world.
Change starts from within
“Driving change across the industry will see adidas forming new alliances, with competitors and partners alike.”
Sustainability is a key strategic focus for us at adidas. We see it as an obligation and opportunity to lead the way in our industry and contribute to a more sustainable world. Driving change across the industry will see adidas forming new alliances, with competitors and partners alike. That said, we decided to start this journey from within. We are bringing employees across the company on our journey towards a more sustainable world through education.
A few months into our company-wide adidas sustainability training, thousands of passionate ambassadors are finding ways to implement sustainable solutions in their personal and professional lives. Our retail colleagues are essential participants in this sustainability training since they interact with our consumers daily. The objective is to inform, engage, and inspire our entire team, worldwide.
A winning team
For us, winning means playing our best and inviting everyone to join the team. This includes employees and consumers who embrace our practices, play their part, and add value. It means using competition to be better. And it means everyone knows that choosing adidas means choosing products that contribute to a cleaner future.