In 2021, more than 60 percent of Adidas’ products will be made with sustainable materials such as recycled polyester or sustainable cotton, according to the company. By 2024, the brand will only use recycled polyester. All of the cotton it uses, the company adds, has been of the sustainable variety since 2018. A further pledge is to achieve “global climate neutrality” in both its own operations and its supply chain by 2050.
Product-wise, Adidas’ efforts in this area are most visible in a series of sneaker models. The Futurecraft Loop, all of whose components are made of a single material and fused together without glue, has been in prototype production since 2019. As we reported in November of that year, the model’s second generation was the company’s first to be produced entirely with the materials of the previous generation. Adidas had the old shoes ground down and fed back into the production line.
This October Adidas held a raffle to give away a similar model, called Ultraboost DNA Loop, and will be launching yet another successor model, in greater quantities, in the spring of 2021.
A collaboration with similar targets began in 2015. That was when Adidas joined forces with Parley for the Oceans, the environmental clean-up group. Adidas’ first shoe made from Parley-collected ocean plastic was presented at the headquarters of the United Nations that same year. Since then the company has produced “many millions of pairs” of such shoes – including 15 million in 2020 alone. Adidas hopes to have raised that number by two million for 2021, using the 7,000 tons of plastic collected so far for the purpose. They correspond to a total of around 350 million plastic bottles.
It was also in 2015 that Adidas pledged to ensure that by the end of 2020 less than half of the polyester used for production would be virgin material. The company appears to have made good on this pledge, saying that the share of recycled polyester has now “reached a percentage of over 60.” By 2024, the company says, that the percentage of new material is due to be zero.
Adidas has also been expanding the range of vegan products, while banning the use of fur. It has used recycled polyester to release new vegan versions of existing products such as the Stan Smith jersey, which became a best-seller.
The company has been working with various partners on other sustainable materials as alternatives to leather and cotton. One is an alternative to leather made from the fungal material known as mycelium, which Adidas hopes to be the first to use it in shoes. Another material, which is currently under development by a Finnish start-up called Infinite Fiber, is a cotton-like material derived from old clothes.
Then there’s Allbirds, with which Adidas is working on a sports shoe intended to have the world’s smallest climate footprint, with reusable materials used in its components and renewable energy used in manufacturing and transportation.
To set these products apart as made of recycled materials, Adidas has adopted two labels: Primeblue, in particular for collaborations with Parely, and Primegreen.
Reebok, which belongs to the same group until further notice, has been taking similar steps. In 2018 the brand released its Cotton + Corn shoe, made of those materials. Since then it has released the Forever Floatride GROW, a concoction of algae, matter from eucalyptus trees and natural rubber. As we have recently reported, Reebok may soon be up for sale.
The carbon footprint of Adidas’ power supply has shrunk by about half since 2015, thanks in part to company-owned photovoltaic systems, with a current capacity of 1.4 megawatts. The new corporate headquarters, in the German city of Herzogenaurach, generate some of their own electricity and heat, while the distribution center in Rieste, Lower Saxony, burns biomass for heat.
The company is working with suppliers to reduce their own carbon emissions and water consumption. In 2019 it made a commitment to aim at “Science-based Targets,” permitting independent external firms to evaluate its progress.
To help finance these and other aims in the area of sustainability and corporate responsibility, Adidas issued a sustainability bond worth €500 million in September. It was five times oversubscribed.