The adidas Sustainability Series
According to the United Nations, climate change is the most pressing long-term challenge facing civilization. With the fate of our planet continuing to take center stage, there seems to be one miracle cure that everyone is talking about: decarbonization. Reducing greenhouse gases emissions will work towards restoring Earth’s climate system and adidas is steadfastly committed to playing a role in making that happen. But what exactly is the problem and how can we turn things around?
Very simply put, greenhouse gases act like a blanket around our planet. They stabilize the temperatures here on Earth, which generally speaking isn’t a bad thing. That said, the growth of industrialization and the increase in unnatural greenhouse gas emissions now means we have far too much of these gases meaning that now, the blanket is getting thicker, and heat escapes less easily. What was once a stable climate regulator is now making our planet warmer. The so-called greenhouse effect or in plainer terms, global warming.
The increased burning of fossil fuels and coal through industrialization has cause an increased emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the greenhouse gases. As a multinational corporation, we acknowledge and accept that we’re part of the problem, so to we have made a commitment to become part of the solution. Here’s a quick look at how we’re striving for climate-neutrality at adidas.
1. Identifying the problem
From the very beginning it was important for us to figure out where the greatest carbon emissions are within our value chain. To help us identify this – and in turn, ensure we drive decisions based on fact, our Sustainability Analytics team has been working on a range of different initiatives. They create data-driven transparency on what we need to improve so that we can define meaningful actions and focus on the areas with the biggest impact.
The team’s focus is twofold: By calculating our corporate footprint we can create full transparency in our value chain and identify the biggest sources of emission. Secondly, the team is also working on product footprinting to create transparency in our product creation process, enabling our development and innovation teams to create materials and concepts with lower footprints.
The team’s efforts have highlighted that unsurprisingly (or perhaps surprising for those who’d expect the answer to be logistics), the biggest chunk of our carbon footprint sits within our supply chain, where the materials are manufactured, and products are assembled. How we address this issue, I’ll get around to later.
So, we identified the problem. Next, we defined how we were going to tackle it and set targets to ensure our approach to becoming a climate-neutral company was sustainable.
2. Setting clear goals
Owning the figures and knowing the problem is one thing, but that data on its own won’t mean anything unless you’re prepared to do something with it. Our detailed decarbonization plan – based on our corporate footprint calculations – is centered on clear targets that will serve as part of a collective effort to limit global temperature rise:
- We have committed to achieving climate neutrality across our own operations by 2025
- We want to reduce the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per product by 15% by 2025
- We aim to reduce the absolute greenhouse gas emissions across our entire value chain by 30% by 2030
- Our overall goal is to achieve climate neutrality by 2050
Having now identified the problem and set achievable, yet demanding targets, we set out to define how to drive the much-needed change on our mission to become a climate neutral company.
3. Implementing our strategy and monitoring the impact
Companies such as ours rely on partners across the globe to create – and deliver – our products to our consumers; so, to become truly climate neutral, it’s critical to have these partners on board. Here’s how we’re working together to drive change in our operations.
Suppliers are an integral part of our climate protection efforts
Our Sustainability teams are working hand in hand with our suppliers to implement energy efficiency measures in their production facilities. We’ve set ourselves the ambitious target to phase out all coal boilers at all direct supplier facilities by 2025, which will significantly reduce our environmental impact. The feasibility of onsite renewable energies depends a lot on the location, facility structure or government regulations. Installing renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic panels can be incredibly complex and each location may require a separate solution.
“Next to our energy efficiency target, we are striving to turn 35% of our production into low carbon coloration by 2025 and 80% by 2030. This means, there is a big heavy lifting from our suppliers when it comes to investment into new technologies in the coming years.” – Ebru Gencoglu, Senior Director Sustainable Sourcing at adidas.
Additionally, the dyeing of materials is an intense process that contributes a lot to our footprint. To address this, we’re investing in – and collaborating with – our suppliers to rethink the dyeing process. These new processes will help us create fantastic colors with a smaller footprint.
Moving towards a low-carbon product range
Another way we are working towards climate neutrality is by embracing innovation. Our ambition is that by 2025, 90% of our articles will be sustainable, which requires us to rethink how we design and create our products.
At adidas we have various teams working on innovative materials that help us to reduce our footprint through product creation. One of these projects is working to replace virgin polyester with recycled polyester wherever possible by 2024. This switch to recycled polyester has helped us already to reduce our carbon footprint.
Another example is the Adizero x Allbirds 2.94 CO2e shoe. Together with Allbirds, we created our most climate-friendly performance running shoe ever. At just 2.94kg CO2e per pair, the shoe is responsible for emitting 63% less CO2e than a comparable running shoe across its entire lifetime.
“The only way we can sustain our company’s growth is by being innovative. New ways to bring elevated experiences to our consumers is based on our ability to find new and sustainable ways to do that. Innovation is therefore a sustainability strategy, and sustainability is an innovation strategy.” – Tom Waller, SVP Innovation at adidas.
Measuring our environmental impact across the value chain
Achieving our ambitious targets requires reliable data, so we have developed an environmental footprint tool that enables us to quantify and monitor our environmental impacts – not only across our own operations, but along our entire value chain. This covers all stages from extraction, production and processing of materials, product assembly, own operations, logistics, to the disposal of our products at their end of life.
This tool has been instrumental in helping us understand our impact caused by greenhouse gas emissions, and in setting appropriate greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. It allows us to track and measure our progress towards our targets and to conduct scenario analyses that feed into making fact-based decisions.
All in all, decarbonization is a massive word and it’s probably the biggest issue for our generation to address. We need to find a way to leave our planet in as good a condition as possible for the next generation. Are you ready for it?