As part of our Own the Game strategy, we aim to move to a comprehensive sustainable offering at scale. Our ambition is that 90% of our articles will be sustainable by 2025. We define articles as sustainable when they show environmental benefits versus conventional articles due to the materials used, meaning that they are – to a significant degree – made with environmentally preferred materials. The majority of these are recycled materials or more sustainable cotton. At the same time, innovative materials such as biobased synthetics, and more sustainably grown natural materials are used in a small scale already and will become increasingly relevant in the future.
To qualify as a sustainable article, environmentally preferred materials have to exceed a certain predefined percentage of the article weight. The applied criteria for environmentally preferred materials and the percentage of the article weight are defined based on standards reflecting the latest industry developments, competitor benchmarks, and expert opinions: For apparel, the environmentally preferred material content is required to be at least 70% of the article weight, for accessories and gear at least 50%, and for footwear at least 20%.1 This standard has been applied for the year 2022 onward. By the end of 2022, we managed to have seven out of ten of our articles sustainable.
The following materials build the foundation of the environmentally preferred materials we use:
Polyester is the most common single-used material in adidas products and, by 2024, we aim to replace all virgin polyester with recycled polyester in all products where a solution exists. We set clear internal milestones for product creation teams and have seen great progress throughout the last few seasons. 96% of all polyester used in 2022 was recycled. With that, we are on track to use only recycled polyester from 2024 onwards.
Parley Ocean Plastic
Since 2015, adidas has partnered with the environmental organization ‘Parley for the Oceans’ and uses ‘Parley Ocean Plastic’ as a replacement for virgin polyester. Parley Ocean Plastic is plastic waste collected from remote islands, beaches, coastal communities, and shorelines, preventing it from polluting the oceans. In 2021, we continued to roll out Parley Ocean Plastic in key categories, both in ‘Performance’ and ‘Lifestyle’ products across footwear, apparel, and accessories and gear. In 2022, we produced close to 27 million pairs of shoes containing Parley Ocean Plastic. (2021: 18 million).
Synthetic fibers are widely used in our industry due to their unique performance properties, such as elasticity, light weight, and high durability. We are aware that products made from synthetic fibers can have a negative environmental impact during both material production and product use. We acknowledge that fiber fragmentation is a complex challenge for our industry, but it is one we are proactively addressing. adidas is a co-founder of ‘The Microfibre Consortium’ (‘TMC’), which has developed a test method for assessing fiber release and in future aims to advise the textile industry on mitigating the impact of fiber fragmentation.
MORE SUSTAINABLE COTTON
adidas has steadily increased the sourcing of more sustainable cotton throughout the last several years. Since the end of 2018, 100% of the cotton we use has come from more sustainable sources. In 2022, these more sustainable cotton sources included ‘Better Cotton,’ organic cotton, and recycled cotton.
In 2022, we successfully launched a small apparel collection made with at least 60% fibers from recycled cotton waste and 40% organic cotton in partnership with Infinited Fiber Company and the EU-funded New Cotton project. This three-year project aims to collect, sort and regenerate textile waste into a new man-made cellulosic fiber that looks and feels like cotton, based on Infinited Fiber Company’s textile fiber regeneration technology. Also in the fall, we launched our ‘made with nature’ Ultraboost, which features a knitted upper made with lyocell, a material made from cellulose fibers derived from sustainably grown wood.
RESPONSIBLY SOURCED LEATHER
adidas uses leather on account of its unique performance properties in products where it is the optimum material for the purpose. Currently, more than 99% of our leather volume is audited in accordance with the Leather Working Group (‘LWG’) protocol, and most of our hides are sourced from tanneries with the highest LWG rating (LWG Gold). We believe the existing LWG audit protocol and chain of custody provide a strong foundation on which to create a robust and scalable traceability solution for leather. For this reason, adidas is working with the LWG to broaden the scope of the audit to include traceability to the slaughterhouse by 2030. This will allow higher transparency on important environmental impacts such as deforestation from the origin of the material.
adidas uses a tiny fraction of animal-derived materials, primarily leather, for their high quality and unique properties. These currently make up approximately 3% of adidas' total materials volume. For our standards for animal-derived guidelines, please see here.
In 2022, adidas collaborated with innovative material startups such as Infinited Fiber Company, Spinnova, and Pond to develop materials from natural resources that we can use in our products. Together, we are striving to replace fossil-based plastics with plant-based raw materials, without compromising product performance.
In addition to using recycled content or other more sustainable material in our products, we are rethinking entire processes to design products that have a circular end-of-life solution and are ‘made to be remade’ (MTBR), meaning they can be completely recycled after use and the material can be reused. We successfully scaled this concept from prototype back in 2019 to a fully commercial MTBR footwear offer across multiple categories in 2022 (including Ultraboost, Stan Smith, Terrex Free Hiker, and NMD Hype) and have meanwhile expanded the concept to apparel. In 2022, we introduced the adidas by Stella McCartney tracksuit made of viscose that can be returned and recycled into new fibers.
Besides various product launches we also continued with our circular services in 2022, which have the objective of prolonging the life of the product. In our Munich Terrex store, we launched a repair service, and in several flagship stores such as Berlin, London, Dubai, or Shenzen we are offering sneaker cleaning services.
1 This standard was applied from 2022 onward. Percentage of sustainable articles (by count) offered at the points-of-sale (average of Fall/Winter season of the current financial year and Spring/Summer season of the following financial year). When calculating the article weight, trims are excluded for apparel, footwear, and accessories and gear. Only articles with verified environmentally preferred material contents are included. Licensed articles are excluded. Without Reebok.
We are committed to using more sustainable packaging materials and reducing the impact of packaging by optimizing box sizes and number of shipments.
Most of our paper-based packaging, such as shoe boxes and shipping boxes, is made with recycled content. Over 99% of the plastic packaging (polybags) used to protect finished products during shipping is made from 100% recycled LDPE (low-density polyethylene). The only current exception are the DCs where e-commerce returns are repackaged and no local vendor of recycled LDPE polybags is available yet (less than 1% of polybags).
Already since 2016, all the carrier bags handed out in adidas retail stores are made with recycled paper.