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Sustainability History

We have been working towards sustainability for many years and recognise that the task ahead of us is a marathon, not a sprint.

Whether it is about global supply chain management, environmental footprint, or community programmes, the adidas Group has been running leadership programmes for years. Key steps in our sustainability journey are:

WE HAVE ALWAYS CARED FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

This is why we banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) for all our products. SF6 gases, which are also amongst the most severe ozone-depleting substances, have never been used for our products because we were well aware of their adverse impacts on the environment.

Creating the fundamentals for effective supply chain management

  • In 1998, building on already existing initiatives, the adidas Group developed its initial supplier code of conduct, now called Workplace Standards. The Standards are based on international human rights and labour rights conventions. They are contractual obligations under the manufacturing agreements the adidas Group signs with all its suppliers.
  • The “Social & Environmental Affairs” team was established to ensure suppliers’ compliance with the company’s Workplace Standards.
  • In 1998, we also adopted a comprehensive and detailed Restricted Substances Policy for product materials, prohibiting the use of chemicals considered as harmful or toxic. This was the first policy in the industry that clearly indicated test and pre-treatment methods for restricted substances. Some of the initiatives that were thus generated were the phase-out of PVC materials from our main product categories, again the first company in our industry to do so, as well as the introduction of new technologies to significantly reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in footwear manufacturing by using innovative bonding technologies and water-based cement systems – both happening in the year 2000.
  • Our factory in Scheinfeld, Germany, was the first in the industry to receive EMAS environmental management system certification. This was an important step in our efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of our facilities.
  • 1999 marked the beginning of our formal Stakeholder Engagement approach, as the adidas Group joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA) as a founding member. Since its inception, the FLA has focused on creating long-lasting solutions for sustainable supply chains. It is through the FLA that our supplier factories started being audited by external parties. Later, in 2005, the FLA accredited the adidas Group’s monitoring programme for the first time.

Entering the ethical investment stage

For the first time, the adidas Group was selected to join the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI), which was positively welcomed by investors who integrate sustainability considerations into their portfolios. To date, the adidas Group has since been listed in the DJSI every year.

Raising the bar through public sustainability reporting

It was in a spirit of transparency and responsiveness towards its stakeholders that the company published its first Sustainability Report. Still today, the adidas Group is the only company in the sporting goods industry which publishes a Sustainability Report on an annual basis.

More guidelines to protect the environment

A big year for the environment, as the adidas Group launched its Environmental, Health & Safety Guidelines, as well as the Guide to Best Environmental Practice. These are comprehensive and detailed standards for suppliers on handling, storage and disposal of chemicals, waste water treatment and effluents. As part of this, we were the first company in our industry to introduce a ban on six high-risk and hazardous chemicals used in our manufacturing facilities. The guidelines were published and several brands in the apparel and sportswear industry have asked for permission to use our guidelines when dealing with their own suppliers.

It is all about saving resources

  • This year marks the birth of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), of which we are a founding member. The BCI addresses the negative social and environmental impacts of mainstream cotton farming, such as excessive pesticide and water use. Better Cotton is grown in a way that reduces the amount of chemicals used.
  • Virtualisation became a strategic initiative for the adidas Group. It allows a reduction of the quantity of physical samples required to design and sell new products. With virtualisation, resources and money are saved by reducing material waste, transportation and distribution costs. And with fewer samples being flown around the globe, carbon emissions are also reduced!
  • In this year, the adidas Group also spearheaded the introduction of Human Resources Management Systems in major footwear factories, a key step towards improved supply chain management.

Expansion of our Stakeholder Engagement strategy

We became a member of the Fair Factories Clearinghouse, an industry-leading compliance data-sharing platform, which Reebok had co-founded, as well as the Leather Working Group, key to the establishment of an audit protocol for all our leather suppliers. 

Reaching new heights through supplier disclosure and product sustainability

  • This year could be called the year of transparency, as the adidas Group voluntarily disclosed its global supplier factory list. While we were not the first in the industry to do so, we raised the bar for the whole industry a few years later when, in 2010, as the Official Sponsor, Licensee and Outfitter of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, adidas disclosed the list of factories involved with the production of World Cup products. We were the first and only FIFA sponsor to do so. Since then, we have disclosed the list of factories manufacturing 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ products, as well as the list for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Here as well, we were the first Olympic partner to disclose its supply chain for the Olympic Games.
  • 2007 was also a cornerstone moment for the adidas brand, with the set-up of its product sustainability programme, aimed at increasing the sustainability attributes of the brand’s global product offering. One of the earliest outputs of this new programme was the adidas Grün collection, one of the very first adidas sustainable product ranges. 

Focusing on environmental audits for suppliers

Our auditing programme expanded its scope, as we started dedicated environmental audits at our supplier sites – based on a rigorous environmental audit protocol that includes chemicals management (risk management, handling, use and storage of chemicals). As of 2010, mills and dyehouses were included into our audit scope as well. In 2012, nearly 200 environmental audits were conducted, 50 of which at mills and dyehouses.

Driving positive change in the industry

  • In this year, we acted as the lead party in a supplier-brand caucus formed to engage with Indonesia's trade union movement on the topic of the exercise of trade union rights in the workplace. An agreement was reached and signed in Jakarta in June 2011. The protocol is recognised as a landmark achievement in Indonesian labour rights.
  • The adidas Group started its collaboration with Better Work, an innovative partnership programme between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to improve both compliance with labour standards and competitiveness in global supply chains. We also became a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the aim of which is to create an industry tool to assess a product’s sustainability on both environmental and social factors.
  • Finally, the adidas Group launched its Environmental Strategy, which demonstrated the company’s ongoing commitment to embedding environmental sustainability in all products, processes and services to significantly improve the adidas Group’s environmental footprint. 

Tackling the “Fair Wage” question

  • The adidas Group has been looking at the issue of “Fair Wages” since 2002 and we continue to explore possible solutions that the whole industry might adopt. In 2011, 25 adidas Group suppliers in eight countries – Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam, China, El Salvador and Thailand – participated in a Fair Wage self-assessment questionnaire. The assessments have helped us improve the way we monitor compensation and pay issues at supplier factories and we have integrated the Fair Wage idea into our supplier training on Human Resources Management Systems.
  • Also, the adidas Group was one of the founding members of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Initiative, launched to drive change in industry practices when it comes to responsible chemical management. In this framework we have committed to the phase-out of long-chain PFCs by no later than January 1, 2015.

Product sustainability is king

  • The collection for the London 2012 Olympic Games was the most sustainable adidas collection ever produced. At the same time, adidas DryDye was launched: a new technology which eliminates the need for water in the dyeing process, therefore also reducing the use of chemicals. Within a year, we were able to achieve 1 million yards of DryDye fabric  produced!
  • adizero Primeknit hit the market, introducing a new way of making products with no textile waste.
  • In the supply chain, the adidas Group introduced an SMS for workers project at one of the company’s main footwear suppliers in Indonesia to improve the communication between factory workers and management.

Always looking for smarter ways to make our products

  • After the successful launch of the Element Soul shoe in fall/winter 2012, the Element Voyager shoe was brought to market in the summer season 2013. With 95% pattern efficiency, the Element Voyager is down to 5% waste. The complete Element Voyager shoe is made with environmentally preferred materials. In apparel, adidas produced a full activewear line featuring t-shirts, tanks, tights, skirts and shorts with 95% pattern efficiency (only 5% waste). Low Waste is an innovative way to create our products in a more intelligent way.
  • On top of that, all adidas Sport Performance footwear newly created for 2013 use sustainable components such as environmentally preferable materials.
  • The company is also listed for the 14th consecutive time in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes and named leader in the “Textiles, Apparel & Luxury Goods Industry” for the tenth time.

Continuing making progress

Setting the bar high

  • On the podium of the most sustainable companies worldwide: In January, the adidas Group is ranked amongthetop three of most sustainable companies worldwide. It is recognised as best European company and as leader in its industry in the Global 100 Index by Corporate Knights.
  • In April, the adidas Group announces a partnership with Parley for the Oceans, an environmental organisation and collaboration network that raises awareness for the beauty and fragility of the oceans and implements comprehensive strategies to end their destruction. As founding member, adidas supports Parley for the Oceans in its efforts in communication and education, research and development, direct action and eco innovation. The mutual focus is on Parley's comprehensive Ocean Plastic Program, which is led by the Parley A.I.R. Strategy (Avoid, Intercept, and Redesign) to end ocean plastic pollution.
  • First footwear made with Ocean Plastic: In June, in the unique surroundings of the United Nations Headquarters adidas showcases an innovative footwear concept born from its collaboration with Parley for the Oceans.
  • Fighting climate change:In September, the adidas Group joins the UN Climate Neutral Now initiative to promote a wider understanding of the need and the opportunities for society to become climate neutral as well as to showcase that many organisations are already taking concrete action in this direction.
  • Innovating to closing the loop: In September, adidas presents ‘Sport Infinity’, a research project led by adidas and funded by the European Commission, bringing together a variety of industry and academic experts. The aim of the project is to develop a material that can be endlessly recycled using a waste-free, adhesive-free process.
  • In December, on the occasion of COP21, adidas and Parley for the Oceans showcase strategic sustainability for the industry presenting an innovative footwear concept, the 3D-printed Ocean Plastic shoe midsole, to demonstrate how the industry can re-think design and contribute to stop ocean plastic pollution. Click here to watch a recap video from the event.

SPORT NEEDS A SPACE