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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 are 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.

happy sports team holding flaggs
Sustainability needs everyone’s participation, and everyone is invited.

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, with the objective of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Here’s a behind-the-scenes view of what we are working on:

9 out of 10 articles will feature sustainable elements

Fashion is one of the most polluting industries, and – together with our partners – we are working hard to change this, aiming 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 fundamentally rethink the way we design and create products. To keep things simple for our consumers, our sustainable product innovations revolve around three loops.

recycled circula regenerative loop
These three loops will get us to 9 out of 10 adidas articles featuring sustainable elements.

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, and by 2024, we will use exclusively recycled polyester wherever possible. We’ve made tremendous progress to bring the recycled loop to scale, and we continue building on this momentum.

team collecting plastic bottles at the beach
By the end of 2021, over 30 million pairs of adidas shoes will have been made with plastic waste intercepted from beaches and coastal regions

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. While we are successfully recycling products made from single materials, going forward we will innovate around products made from multiple materials and increase numbers to drive impact at scale.

white sneaker before white background
Shoes that are made to be remade are designed to extend the life of materials.

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 is part of our commitment to extend the lifecycle of our products, and 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 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.

white shoes natural materials
Mushroom roots have proven promising in creating soft, sturdy, and pliable materials.
mushroom natural material
Naturally regenerating sources are rich with innovative possibilities.
Smith Mylo shoe
The first prototype of the Stan Smith Mylo was created in the spring of 2021.
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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 this running shoe only uses 2.94 kilograms of CO2 per pair. Put into context, the emissions resulting in the creation of this shoe are 63% less than in 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 a key lever to mitigate our impact on our planet.

Carbon neutrality by 2050

In conjunction with these initiatives, we are working towards our ultimate goal of carbon neutrality.

nature, landscape, mountains, sustainability
Our sustainability strategy keeps an eye on the big picture.

We don’t have all the answers yet. But we are passionately working on how to get there and have our 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 adidas sustainability 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 example, 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, by really challenging our own design and manufacturing practices, for example, reducing waste in material patterns or coming up with new ways to dye fabrics.

people are dying clothes in blue
We are innovating at various phases of the manufacturing process.
dyed t-shirt and shoes
New methods of dyeing products can reduce the use of resources.
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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, which includes offices, distribution centers, and over 2000 stores around the world.

Change starts from within

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 play our part in contributing 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, bringing our employees from across the company along on our journey towards a more sustainable world through education.

A few months into our company-wide adidas sustainability training, we are seeing thousands of passionate ambassadors working on how they can be part of sustainable solutions, personally and professionally. This includes training all of our retail colleagues on sustainability, with the objective of informing, engaging, and inspiring our entire team and all consumers we interact with on a daily basis, worldwide.

A winning team

For us, winning means playing our best and inviting everyone to join the team – 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.

group of people doing team sports
We can help each other live and work more sustainably.

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by Christos Karitzis 10.11.2021
“The vision of adidas about a sustainable environment is well captured by Katja Schreier”
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