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Partnership Approach

Engaging openly with stakeholders and establishing leadership approaches for transparency and disclosure is a fundamental part of our approach to sustainability.

When you have a well-developed approach to sustainability, as adidas has, engagement is rarely a one-off event: stakeholder relationships develop over time and, along the way, the nature of the dialogue changes and matures. Where there is a positive and open approach to engagement, perspectives can be shared, differences respected and, at times, new partnerships forged.

Stakeholder engagement and guidelines

Our stakeholders are those people or organizations who affect or are affected by our operations. Companies do not operate in isolation from society and our stakeholders have a legitimate interest in the way we do business. adidas stakeholders are a diverse group and include the following:

  • adidas employees
  • Authorizers: government, trade associations, shareholders, Executive Board
  • Business partners: unions, suppliers, service providers
  • Workers in our suppliers’ factories
  • Opinion-formers: journalists, community members, special interest groups
  • Customers: professional athletes, distributors, retailers, consumers
  • Peers: other multinationals, consumer goods companies and brands

The number of stakeholders is large and also subject to change periodically, for example due to specific issues or trends. In order to systematically identify these stakeholders, we use an extensive network of contacts - spanning across more than 60 countries - to pinpoint areas for dialog and applicable parties to engage with. Using this feedback, we prioritize stakeholders based on criteria such as action radius, relevance, risk, willingness and capacity to engage. We also consider appropriate representation of different stakeholder groups. The prioritization may change depending on the issue.

Operationally, this translates into a diverse range of engagements, including with local and international NGOs, labor rights advocacy groups, human rights advocacy groups, trade unions, investors, SRI (socially responisble investment) analysts, national and international government agencies, and academics. adidas also participates in a series of long terms purpose-built fora and multi-stakeholder initiatives, including the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Bangladesh Accord, among others.

An analysis of adidas’ primary current stakeholder engagements is maintained on an ongoing basis and reviewed at least annually.


Our policy towards our stakeholders is clear: we actively engage, we listen, we seek to understand their ideas and concerns and, where it is within our ability, we act. Relationship management ranges from passive to more active engagement, i.e. from informing to involving them. We engage with our stakeholders in a number of ways:

  • Formal stakeholder consultation meetings/ stakeholder dialogs with our industry peers, with workers, union representatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and our business partners.
  • Meetings with socially responsible investment (SRI) analysts
  • Internal reporting and induction programs with our employees
  • Responding to enquiries from consumers, interest groups and the media
  • Collaborating with other brands in joint initiatives or business forums
  • Outreach to graduates and the academic community.


In the following you find all reports from stakeholder dialogue meetings since 2001.










Collaborations and memberships

adidas holds strong relationships within the sustainability area. The following table summarizes key collaborations and memberships of adidas in the sustainability area. We describe the principal reasons for our ongoing participation in each of these organizations.

 Organization Type

Member since

Status Reason for participation
Apparel and Footwear International RSL Management (AFIRM) Working Group Industry Association 2004 Founding member and participating company.

Industry-leading group that strives to reduce the impact of harmful substances and tracks regulatory compliance.

Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) Multi-Stakeholder Organization 2004 Founding member and participating company.

Promotes measurable improvements in the key environmental and social impacts of cotton cultivation worldwide.

European Outdoor Group (EOG) Industry Association 2009 Member and participating company; interim Vice Chair of the sustainability working group. To engage with players in the outdoor industry on sustainability matters.
German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles Government-led multi-stakeholder initiative 2015 Participating company; member of the Review and Chemicals working groups

Promote measurable social, ecological and economic improvements along the textile and apparel supply chain

International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec) Business Group Non-profit environmental organization 2015

Participating company

Minimize the use of hazardous chemicals and their impact on health and the environment, and promote sustainable innovation
Fair Factories Clearinghouse (FFC) Non-Profit Organization 2006 Founding member (Reebok) and participating company; Board seat. To promote transparency and share audit findings and remedial action plans across the industry.
Fair Labor Association (FLA) Non-Profit Organization 1999 Founding member and participating company; Board seat. Provides independent accreditation and oversight of our internal programs.
Leather Working Group (LWG) Industry Association 2005 Founding member and participating company. Improves environmental conditions in the leather supply chain.
Parley for the Oceans Collaboration Network 2015

Founding member with seat in the steering committee

Thought leader in ocean conservation and eco innovation, creating awareness and forging collaborations to end the destruction of the oceans.

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh

Independent, binding agreement between brands and trade unions 2013 Participating company

Work towards a safe and healthy garment and textile industry in Bangladesh.

World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) Industry Association 1985 Founding member and participating company; Chair of CSR Committee. Represents the sporting goods industry in various venues and drives alignment among members.
Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Industry Association 2011 Founding member and participating company.

Industry-leading group that strives to reduce the impact of harmful substances.

We are also engaged in selected organizations worldwide such as national and international chambers of commerce, industry and business associations, and multi-stakeholder initiatives. These organizations focus, amongst others, on advocating free trade, ensuring intellectual property protection, monitoring national legislation, setting sustainability-related industry standards and providing for exchange and networking.

Based on principles as laid out in the corporate compliance policy adidas does not support any local, regional or national political parties, campaigns or candidates.

We publicly disclose our EU lobbying activities annually in the European Union Transparency Register, including public grants we receive from the EU. We register our lobbying activities in the United States with the U.S. Congress on a quarterly basis, according to the U.S. Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. These disclosures are published on the official website of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Government outreach

As a company we support human rights and protect the environment. Therefore, our concerns over violation of human rights and negative environmental impacts, and the potential risks that these would pose to adidas, require our close engagement with governments in different countries.

For example, in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO), we engaged with the Cambodian government about the issue of prison labor. Together with other stakeholders, we signed a pledge calling for the Uzbek government to end the forced child labor happening every year in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan. In Indonesia we are in contact with the government to discuss the issue of foreign factory owners leaving the country and failing to fulfil their fiduciary duties during factory closures. And in Singapore, we were invited to offer our views on the role of business and human rights in a key workshop with ASEAN member states, which in turn led to our participation in an ASEAN business leaders round-table on human rights.


adidas is aware of and concerned about the social and environmental conditions that exist in certain areas of the cotton industry today. These conditions, in the worst cases, include child labor, human exposure to pesticides and environmental pollution. Due to ongoing concerns regarding the continued use of government-backed forced child labor during the cotton-picking season in Uzbekistan, we joined an alliance of international investors, brands and non-governmental organisations that urged the Uzbek government to eradicate this practice and to fully adhere to core conventions of the International Labour Organization.

In 2011, adidas along with several US and European companies representing a large number of brands and retailers signed a pledge calling for the Uzbek government to end the forced child labor happening every year in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan. While further maturing the traceability of our material, we have reminded our suppliers that we expect them to ensure, to the best of their knowledge, that no cotton and cotton materials used originate from Uzbekistan. Click here to find out more about the pledge.



adidas joined five other major brands in writing to the Cambodian government to express concern over the reported development of a prison rehabilitation scheme that permits garments to be manufactured by prison labor. In the communications with the government, the international buyers shared their concerns over the need to ensure the integrity of global supply chains and the potential risks that stem from unauthorized subcontracting in the apparel sector in Cambodia.

Staff from the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) Better Factories program – which monitors labor conditions in adidas supplier factories in Cambodia – provided us with regular updates on the situation and reached out to the government and other UN agencies, to obtain their perspectives and feedback. The brands’ concerns were formally acknowledged by the Minister of Commerce and were addressed through an inter-ministerial committee, which was formed to examine and safeguard against undisclosed or illegal subcontracting arrangements in the apparel and footwear industry. The Minister of Commerce subsequently made public the government’s efforts in regulating contract supply chains.

In the following please find some examples of our engagement with governments and public authorities:

2019, MAR

adidas continues its support for the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh

Download PDF
2014, JAN Open letter to Cambodian Government: A new call for peaceful resolution of nationwide strike linked to the Cambodian garment industry annual minimum wage increase Download · PDF
2014, JAN Open letter to Cambodian Governmen, Manufacturers and Trade Unions: Calling for peaceful resolution of nationwide strike linked to the Cambodian garment industry annual minimum wage increase Download · PDF
2010, SEP Letter to Cambodian Government: Regarding the minimum wage negotiations, agreements and strikes Download · PDF
2009, OCT Letter to US State Department: Regarding the impacts on the employment of garment and textile workers, should trade policy on Madagascar change Download · PDF
2009, JUL Letter to Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton: Regarding the situation in Honduras Download · PDF
2007, OCT Open letter to the El Salvador Government: Concerning the Hermosa factory Download · PDF
2007, OCT Open letter to the El Salvador Government: Concerning the Hermosa factory (Spanish Version) Download · PDF

Civil society

We foster relationships with stakeholders from the civil society.


In 2011, Greenpeace International initiated the "DETOX Campaign" calling for the zero discharge of all hazardous and persistent chemicals at all points in global supply chains: from the cotton fields, to the mills and dye houses that make the fabric and the garment production. Greenpeace has directed its campaign primarily towards sporting goods companies and well-known apparel brands in the belief that they can act as a catalyst for change for the whole industry. As part of their campaign, Greenpeace demanded that targeted companies publish a formal commitment to support the goal of "zero discharge" and issue an individual roadmap specifying timelines and steps to meet this goal.

From the outset, adidas entered into an in-depth engagement process with Greenpeace. We publicly committed to support Greenpeace’s goal, but also stressed the fact that the management of chemicals in multi-tiered supply chains is a complex challenge, requiring many actors to play a role in achieving effective and sustainable solutions. In other words, that the change needed is of a scale that cannot be delivered by a single brand acting alone.

We therefore reached out and partnered with a group of like-minded brands to meet Greenpeace’s challenge. This coalition of brands has worked closely together to develop a comprehensive roadmap on how best to achieve zero discharge in our supply chains. In creating this roadmap, we have engaged with experts from the chemical industry and with other brands. Since then, more brands have joined us. Our vision is that the roadmap serves as a benchmark and that many more brands and other stakeholders will join us in our efforts. We firmly believe that collaboration is the key to success.

Click here to read more about our efforts when it comes to managing our chemical footprint.

2020, APR adidas’ Efforts to Support Workers in the Supply Chain During COVID-19 Download PDF
2014, JUN Progress report on adidas individual roadmap towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals Download PDF
2013, OCT adidas statement on Greenpeace's International leadership board ranking  Download PDF
2011, NOV adidas individual roadmap toward zero discharge of hazardous chemicals  Download PDF


In September 2020, adidas presented the sustainable footwear collection "Clean Classics". The upper material of the sneakers consists of 70 percent recycled materials. Recycled and renewable rubber is used for the sole. All processed materials, including adhesives and colors, are free of animal ingredients. The laces are made of paper.

adidas intended to source FSC-certified paper for the laces as a sustainable ingredient for the “Clean Classics”. At present, we are unable to confirm whether this paper has been finally used in production. For clarification we are in close contact with our suppliers and the certifier FSC. In addition, we will expand our cooperation with FSC in the future to source sustainable raw materials.

As an immediate measure, we do not use any reference to FSC certification for the product presentation in our online store.  For further info and questions about FSC please visit

Trade Unions and Freedom of Association in Indonesia

As one of the fastest-growing sourcing countries in Asia, adidas has witnessed steady progress and improvement in the workplace conditions in Indonesia. Nevertheless, we acknowledge and accept that our suppliers continue to face challenges as they strive to meet our Workplace Standards, as well as NGO expectations.

One area where we have engaged deeply with organisations such as Oxfam Australia, the ITGLWF, as well as local NGOs and unions, has been in the development of a Freedom of Association Protocol for Indonesia. adidas acted as the lead party in a supplier-brand caucus that was formed in 2010 to engage with Indonesia’s trade union movement, to develop a basic framework for the exercise of trade union rights in the workplace. A formal signing of the protocol took place in Jakarta in June 2011. The event was heralded by the international labor rights movement as a “historic pact” between sportswear brands, suppliers and trade unions.

We are hopeful that the protocol will set an important benchmark for suppliers and its provisions will close the gap in expectations and reduce misunderstandings between factory managers and trade union officials with respect to trade union activities, freedom of association etc., thereby improving the overall industrial relations environment. As part of our commitment to the FOA protocol, we have encouraged all of our suppliers to sign on to and agree to implement its requirements. adidas was also active in promoting the adoption of the protocol among other international buyers sourcing from Indonesia.

You can find the protocol here.


In the following please find some examples of our engagement with civil society:

2020, MARCH Response to research findings published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institution (ASPI) Download PDF
2019, APRIL 

Engagement with local NGO, Myanmar 


Download PDF
2019, APRIL adidas position on ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) Download PDF
2019, FEB Response to Clean Clothes Campaign Open Letter on PT Panarub Dwikarya Benoa - Update Download PDF
2018, JUNE Response to the STOP A L’ANTI JEU! and Clean Clothes Campaign report 'Foul Play II': A report calls for adidas to change its market-driven business model, provide an equitable sharing of profits with workers in its supply chain and impose a cap on the payment of sports sponsorship. In our reponse we offer some points of clarification. Download PDF
2017, JULY Response to Clean Clothes Campaign Open Letter on PT Panarub Dwikarya Benoa:  The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) has recently posted an open letter on its website calling for the payment of severance for 345 workers, who in 2012 were involved in a strike at an Indonesian shoe factory by the name of PT Panarub Dwikarya Benoa (PDB). As a former subcontractor to the Panarub Group, the factory had previously made product for adidas but not at the time of the strike, nor afterwards. Download PDF
2015, OCT Report of Stakeholder Dialogue: ‘Human Rights Impact of Major Sporting Events and the Role of Sponsors’: In July 2015, we invited participants from academia, non-governmental organizations, UN agencies, and sports bodies to discuss The Human Rights Impacts of Major Sporting Events - the Role of Sponsors. The dialog focused on exploring the role of corporate sponsors in major sporting events with respect to upholding human rights and addressing the challenge of moving from principles to practice. The intention was to help us move the bar on the issue, both internally and externally within the corporate sponsor community.  Download PDF
2015, AUG Response to Recommendations from WRC: Yuen Yuen and Social Insurance in the People’s Republic of China: This document is part of our summary of Third Party Complaints received in 2014, please read more in our Human Rights section. Download PDF
2012, SEP Letter to North American universities: On activities associated with the PT Kizone case Download PDF


Corporate responsibility is an important topic at various sporting events around the world. Our brands are visible all over the world, especially through our presence at major sports events such as the Football World Cup or the Olympic Games. This draws attention to the way we do business and the conditions under which our products are made. Therefore, adidas is taking a proactive approach in engaging with stakeholders about its corporate responsibility practices, especially related to bigger sporting events where adidas is a sponsor. 

Sport matters. It matters to the dedicated athlete who is trying to be the best he can be. It matters to fans all over the world as they follow their team. And it matters to us, because it lies at the heart of our business. For more than a decade we have been hosting stakeholder dialogs to gain insights and understanding of what matters to our stakeholders. In July 2015, we invited participants from academia, non-governmental organisations, UN agencies, and sports bodies to discuss The Human Rights Impacts of Major Sporting Events - the Role of Sponsors.

WHY THIS TOPIC, AND WHY NOW? When the UN Guiding Principles (UNGP) on Business and Human Rights were published in 2011 we made a public commitment to uphold those principles and the corresponding requirements in the revised OECD Guidelines for Multinational Corporations. In order to gauge human rights risks, the UNGP calls on business enterprises to identify and assess any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which they may be involved, either directly, or as a result of their business relationships. To properly assess risk, enterprises must utilise human rights expertise, as well as regular and meaningful consultation with potentially affected groups and other relevant stakeholders.

In 2013-14 we conducted a high level human rights risk mapping exercise of our business operations. The risk mapping forms part of our general human rights due diligence approach, which includes annual country risk appraisals, a third party complaint mechanism (see above) and associated remedial processes. The mapping exercise highlighted a number of potential risk areas, where more focused attention would be warranted. The human rights impacts arising out of our involvement in and sponsorship of major sporting events was one such area.

The London dialog in 2015 focused on exploring the role of corporate sponsors in major sporting events with respect to upholding human rights and addressing the challenge of moving from principles to practice. The intention was to help us move the bar on the issue, both internally and externally within the corporate sponsor community. With this in mind, the dialog for the day broadly followed three core themes:

  • The role of corporate sponsorship in major sporting events,
  • Exploring the boundaries of responsibility on human rights, and
  • Building Practical Action.

A full report of the 2 July, 2015 London Stakeholder Dialog can be found here.

The dialogue identified both immediate short-term actions, as well as long term opportunities, for sponsors to engage with sporting bodies and other stakeholders over the human rights impacts of mega sporting events (MSEs). These are summarised below.

This critically important stakeholder feedback will help shape the company's future role and roadmap, as a sponsor, in responding to the human rights impacts associated with MSEs.

SHORT-TERM (2015-2016)

  1. Sponsors to engage collectively and directly, share experience and, ideally, develop a pledge to fulfill and support the delivery of the UN –Guiding Principles (UNGP) in major sporting events.
  2. Consider participation in the planned Sports and Human Rights Forum (co-hosted by Wilton Park and IHRB) in Lausanne/Switzerland on the 18/19 November 2015
  3. Consider participation in the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights proposed meeting in Qatar in February 2016. This will address human rights issues across the region Asia in general, but will also provide an opportunity to look at progress and efforts related to the World Cup developments.
  4. Engage further. Sponsors and FIFA to consider in a roundtable meeting with international advocacy groups, including the fans, to discuss the challenges of hosting the World Cup in Russia. This will provide greater legitimacy and transparency about the important work FIFA and sponsors have been already doing and their plans.
  5. Address the current and obvious silos both within sporting bodies and within sponsoring companies, where the sustainability and human rights champions and the commercial or marketing arms of these organizations do not always align or engage. This was clearly identified by sponsors and event organizers equally; organizations and sponsors would benefits from a more regular engagement.

MID-TERM (2017-2018)

  1. As part of developing a clearer, collective voice, the development of an independent oversight body (particularly within the context of major sporting events) would prove beneficial in holding all involved parties to account and ensuring greater transparency of practice. Click here to read the joint statement "Diverse Coalition Commits to Making Human Rights Central to the Planning, Delivery and Legacy of Mega-Sporting Events" (June 2016)
  2. Drive good governance. Sponsors should support improved governance and capacity within sports bodies to help them adopt and apply the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.

As a long-term partner of FIFA, adidas regularly provides in-depth information about its sustainability program to FIFA. We disclose supplier lists and share policies and guidelines with them and the public in general. With regard to the World Cup in Brazil, we are in close contact with non-governmental organisations and we also engage with public authorities so that we can closely follow any societal and environmental developments. 

As is typical of major sporting events, we expect activities by advocacy groups before and during the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil. We seek direct dialog with all interested stakeholders and act upon any concern or allegation raised. In Brazil, we also support specific grass-roots community projects in cooperation with local partners. One such project is the "Ginga Social" initiative. This sports-based program uses coaching to teach values and life skills to young people aged between 7 and 17. It will run from 2011 to 2014 in five low-income neighbourhoods in Sâo Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre and Salvador – FIFA World Cup 2014™ host cities.

Our partner organization Gol de Letra helps local organisations implement the program. Their "train the trainer" model equips local coaches to make an ongoing positive difference to the lives of vulnerable young people in their neighbourhood. The project will also invest in local sports facilities, vital in a country where 86% of its more than 190 million inhabitants live in cities where space for sports is often scarce and expensive.

In preparation for the London 2012 Olympic Games, we hosted a stakeholder dialog in London in May 2011 to capture a broad array of stakeholder views on adidas' role and responsibilities in relation to sponsoring major sporting events. Labelled as the world's first Sustainable Olympics, London 2012 presented new challenges as well as opportunities for the adidas.

It was the first Games to include a mandatory Sustainable Sourcing Code and a third-party complaint mechanism for companies supplying goods to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Building on our outreach from a stakeholder workshop in 2011, we continued to engage with key interest groups, including the UK's Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF), among others.

As is typical of major sporting events, we saw a spike in the campaigning activities by labor rights groups – some held protests, others submitted petitions and a few staged stunts to take their message to the media and the public. Poverty and living wages featured prominently in the campaigns, as did freedom of association and working conditions in global supply chains.

In May 2012, the Play Fair Campaign, a civil society alliance, published a report called Fair Games? Human Rights of Workers in Olympic 2012 Supplier Factories highlighting issues and concerns over workplace conditions, stretching from Sri Lanka to the Philippines. Aided by our transparency in disclosing the locations of the factories making products for the London 2012 Olympic Games, the report featured many of our suppliers. Some of the issues raised in the report were subsequently used to form the grounds for complaints lodged under LOCOG's grievance mechanism. The complaint mechanism drew us into more in-depth and specific engagements with the TUC, ITGLWF, Labour Behind the Label, government agencies and other organisations in China and the Philippines. In 2013, we have been continuing our follow-up work in the Philippines which has been part of our formal commitments towards the complainants.

The media also played an active part in our engagement around the London Olympic Games, running stories on working conditions and wages in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia. Newspaper allegations over working conditions in Indonesia prompted an independent investigation by LOCOG, which reached very similar conclusions to our own findings.

We took all such allegations seriously and we immediately launched in-depth investigation into each issue raised. The results of our full investigations have been shared with LOCOG, who commissioned a third party to review our findings and conduct independent off-site worker interviews. The findings of that independent review are published by LOCOG on their website.