May 15, 2024

Circularity Is a Team Sport: Our Game Plan for a Circular Future

A three-part series on our approach to circularity. Join us on the journey as we lace up to tackle our industry’s transition towards a circular future.
by Drishti MasandSenior Manager, Sustainability Direction

Circularity isn't just a buzzword, it's a departure from the old take-make-dispose linear model and a move towards a closed-loop system. The goal? Minimize waste and maximize resource utilization by extending the lifespan of our beloved shoes and sports products.  

Representations of a linear vs. circular economy.

In the first part of our circularity series, we explored how circularity is crucial to a thriving future business for adidas. In our second installment, we explored the importance of being a frontrunner in innovation. For the final chapter in our circularity series, we will delve into the ambitions at adidas as we transition towards a circular future.

Finding inspiration in the wardrobe

In a world where fashion reigns supreme, it's all too easy to lose sight of the environmental toll our style choices take. With its big appetite for resources and ever-growing landfills, the textile industry casts a sizable shadow on our planet. One way we could reduce our impact is by renting our clothes.

When I first heard of renting clothes, I asked myself why we didn’t all just rent our whole wardrobe all the time. By renting, we could have new styles and clothes all the time, and instead of hoarding them in our closets, we could return them and let someone else use them instead. Then, I realized the hygiene aspects and learned about the considerable impact renting could have.

Discovering the power of circularity

I’ve often found inspiration by staring into my closet for the next solution to decrease our impact as a brand and individuals. Many of my questions and solutions circled what I later learned is called circularity. Circularity is also often called a circular economy, and the two terms are used interchangeably. The circular economy is based on business models to close the loop and account for the resources in any system. In contrast, circularity is a more broadly defined concept of big-picture holistic change.

"Embracing circularity isn't just a feel-good move; it's a powerhouse of benefits."

Drishti MasandSenior Manager, Sustainability Direction

Circularity can reduce the industry's carbon footprint and curtail water consumption and pollution by minimizing waste and extending the lifespan of our clothes. Wanting to play a critical role in transforming our linear value chain into a circular one, I was thrilled to join the adidas global sustainability team so this impact can be led by one of the biggest global athletic and fashion brands.

Recognizing the importance of collaboration and being a game-changer

At adidas, we define circularity as maintaining the value of products and materials at their highest level for as long as possible. This aligns with the U.N. Environmental Programme's definition as laid out in their report titled “Sustainability and Circularity in the Textile Value Chain.”

Establishing and expanding circularity globally within our industry is a complex challenge that requires strong collaboration among multiple stakeholders. This includes working with direct and indirect value chain partners, ranging from collectors and sorters to pre-processing partners and recyclers, suppliers, and innovators.

We recognize that circularity is a collective responsibility and have been collaborating with industry and supply chain partners to advance circularity. It is a journey and team effort where experts from various fields must collectively come together to tackle the challenge. adidas partners with organizations like Fashion for Good, Textile Exchange, and Circle Economy and participates in various international research projects to develop innovative recycling technologies, certify recycled materials, and develop comprehensive frameworks and guidelines for the fashion industry's transition towards circularity.

Moving forward towards our goal

In 2023, we refined our approach to circularity by adopting a systemic approach to addressing circularity challenges within our value chain. Utilizing frameworks established by industry organizations and keeping an eye on upcoming regulatory requirements, we identified relevant actions to be implemented across our entire value chain operations. We then evolved our approach to circularity to support the creation of an ecosystem necessary to bring closed loops to scale in our industry. As a result, we can share our knowledge and examine lessons learned from past circular services piloted and the MTBR product design criteria.

The direction for circularity within our industry’s future will come from European Commission regulations. These regulations will eliminate some ambiguity and set baseline standards for every brand to adhere to. Working with our Government Affairs team to best prepare for the EU Green Deal, precisely with the EU Sustainable and Circular Textiles Strategy, we can closely monitor how we’ll be impacted in the future. To learn more about the EU Green Deal and adidas’ role, you can find out more from our colleague Diego in Government Affairs, who outlines our journey from voluntary measures to mandatory ones.

Speaking on a panel about Extended Producer Responsibility schemes at the New Cotton Project Policy round-table discussion

Bringing all adidas employees on the journey

At the internal Sustainability Learning Day event in May of 2024, we delved deeper into adidas’ circularity strategy with all employees. The internal Sustainability Learning Day was an event in our headquarters to share an update to the organization and ensure a universal understanding of our sustainability direction and focus topics for 2024 and beyond.

We can create a closed-loop system that minimizes waste and protects the environment, by working together. Sharing the strategy and empowering all adidas employees is essential to moving our products and company toward a circular economy.

Presenting circularity strategy at the adidas Sustainability Learning Day

The Global Sustainability team will continue to team up and work closely with various teams, like the Brand and Innovation teams, to bridge the external requirements with internal ambitions to form a strategy that allows adidas to continue being a frontrunner towards a circular system.

"Our commitment to circularity is unwavering, and its journey is far from over."

Drishti MasandSenior Manager, Sustainability Direction

With our circularity strategy, adidas continually explores new technologies, collaborates with partners, and innovates to make circularity a defining principle of its operations. It’s a team effort, and remember, you got this.  

Part One of our Circularity Series

Go back to the start of our three-part series on our approach to circularity.