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Circularity

adidas has been a pioneer in creating products with a circular end-of-life solution and adopts a systemic approach to addressing circularity challenges within its value chain.

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 UN Environmental Programme's definition as laid out in their report ‘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 direct and indirect value chain partners, ranging from collectors and sorters to pre-processing partners and recyclers, as well as suppliers and innovators.

adidas has been a pioneer in creating 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, a 100% mono-material performance running shoe that was made according to circular design principles. We successfully scaled this concept from a prototype back in 2019 to a fully commercial MTBR apparel and footwear collection across multiple categories through 2023. During the last few years, we learned that the implementation of circular services requires tight collaboration with partners along the entire value chain including collection, sorting, and recycling of waste. The MTBR program will therefore expire in 2024, with insights and experiences being used to inform the development of an industry-wide closed-loop scaling.

Circularity also includes services that help consumers to value their products longer. adidas carried out in previous years several pilots on such circular services, like sneaker cleaning in stores, rental and take-back programs. In 2023, we focused on the topic of repair to extend the lifespan of our products. We maintained a repair service at our Munich Terrex store and launched a rental program pilot in our new concept store in Berlin.

In 2023, we refined our approach to circularity by adopting a systemic approach to addressing circularity challenges within our value chain. Utilising frameworks established by industry organisations and upcoming regulatory requirements, we identified pertinent actions to be implemented across our entire value chain operations.  We have evolved our approach to circularity to support the creation of an ecosystem necessary to bring closed loops to scale in our industry, thereby sharing our knowledge and examining lessons learned from past circular services piloted and the MTBR product design criteria.

In addition, we are expanding our engagement in EU-funded cross-industry circular research projects like Textile Recycling Excellence (‘T-REX’) and the ‘New Cotton Project’, as well as partnering with Fashion For Good for the Sorting For Circularity project series, that all aim to unlock business benefits of circular textile economy end-to-end.

  • Textile Recycling Excellence’ (‘T-REX’): This project brings together 13 major actors from across the entire value chain, with adidas as coordinator and leader, to create a harmonised blueprint and business opportunities for closed-loop sorting and recycling of household textile waste in the EU. The key objective is transforming end-of-use textiles from waste into a desired feedstock and a commodity for new business models, thus proving the economic viability of a scalable circular economy for textiles in Europe.
  • ‘New Cotton Project’: adidas has been a partner in this EU-funded project, which is an industry and multistakeholder effort to scale the chemical recycling technology of Infinited Fibre Company with the ambition to expand circularity of cotton textile waste. The project will be completed in 2024 and has been impactful in scaling closed-loop textile sorting and recycling.
  • Projects with ‘Fashion for Good’: In addition to EU-funded projects, we are continuously involved in several projects with Fashion for Good. adidas is the lead sponsor of the ‘Sorting For Circularity’ project in the USA, an initiative by Fashion for Good and the Circle Economy. Through this series of projects, adidas has continuously collaborated with Fashion for Good and Circle Economy to develop a Sorting for Circularity framework, a comprehensive guide for mapping the garment lifecycle, capturing textile waste, and unlocking its recycling potential. This framework is a valuable tool for the fashion industry to transition towards circularity.
  • ‘FastFeetGrinded’: adidas also partnered with FastFeetGrinded to test shoe recycling processes, aiming to develop a scalable solution for the footwear industry. The pilot involves deconstructing shoes into macro-components for repurposing and reuse.