May 02, 2024

Circularity Is a Team Sport: Everyone Can Contribute, Including You.

A three-part series on our approach to circularity. Learn how our adidas brand team relays our progress to the outside world.
by Nadja GründlerManager Brand Sustainability

Circularity isn't just a buzzword; it's a departure from the old take-make-dispose linear model and a move toward 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.

adidas is dedicated to proving that circularity is more than just a buzzword; it’s a crucial element of a thriving future business—and it deeply resonates with me. This commitment mirrors my own dream: to leave behind a healthier planet and a brighter future for my son and the generations to come.

A snapshot into our circularity history and what’s next

adidas has a long history in circularity, and we’ve already achieved several key milestones on our journey. Here’s a glimpse into it:

At adidas, we’ve pioneered the creation of products with a circular end-of-life solution known as Made To Be Remade (MTBR). This journey began with the introduction of the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP shoe in 2019. It was a hundred percent mono-material performance running shoe made according to our circular design principles. We successfully scaled this concept from a prototype to a fully commercial MTBR apparel and footwear collection across multiple categories. During the last few years, we learned that implementing circular services requires a tight-knit collaboration with partners along the entire value chain, which covers waste collection, sorting, and recycling.

From 2024 onwards, we won’t have any new MTBR collections. Instead, we’ll work to integrate the insights and experiences we have learned within adidas and the industry. Looking back, when we launched MTBR, circularity was an untapped area; but that did not stop us from disrupting the status quo of our industry and challenging the conventional approach to product design and consumption. Our first efforts into the circularity space are paying us back with tremendous learnings that will help our industry.

Circularity includes services that help consumers value their products longer

adidas has carried out several pilots in previous years offering circular services, like sneaker cleanings in stores, as well as rental and takeback programs.

As part of the brand team, we need to tackle how we demystify a multifaceted topic like circularity for the consumer. It’s essential to articulate our efforts in a manner that resonates with every individual who steps into an adidas store or browses our online platforms.

Bringing circularity to our consumer

To reach our consumers in-store and online, we created the Wear Longer program, our consumer-facing name for circularity. In a nutshell, we want to offer consumers easy solutions and help them make conscientious choices to extend the lifespan of their products. That means they can choose what clothing to repair, care for, pass forward, and more. Every option we provide aims to keep products in game for longer.

Everyone can contribute to a circular transition with small and big actions. I’m sure you can relate to the experience of your white adidas sneakers needing a good cleaning or your favorite garment that’s needs an urgent mend. Those shoes or clothing pieces may carry an emotional value or a story behind them that makes them worth the effort of preserving. Maybe you wore them at an important game or to a special party, or they were a gift from your grandma—or in my case, you have been wearing that adidas jacket ever since your internship at adidas, which was more than ten years ago. Last season, that same jacket showed signs of wear and had a broken seam, which I will have repaired.

Celebrating the stories that our clothes tell

Sometimes, those imperfections can even cause you to become more attached to a piece of clothing. By knowing the story behind a loose button or tear in the fabric, the repair becomes a beautiful scar or tattoo. The repair itself also changes garment’s character, making it even more personal to you. At our campus in Herzo, colleagues are invited to the Repair Corner, an initiative powered by our MakerLab, to explore tools and techniques to give our garments a second chance. We also have a Swap Shop, where employees exchange adidas items to provide them with a second life in a new home.

Let’s embrace the concept of circularity

By embracing circularity, we are reducing our environmental impact and creating a more sustainable future for the sports industry. This forward-thinking approach sets a benchmark for the sector and inspires others to follow suit. To our Brand community, I say the following: Let’s help consumers and create convenient ways for them to engage in circularity – Let’s integrate repair into product experiences and explain to consumers how they can take care of their clothes and apparel for longer use. I’m thrilled to be part of this journey together with my colleagues and look forward to making circularity understandable, accessible, and actionable for all.

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