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. For years, adidas has been running leadership programs that address this topic within its area of direct influence.
Moreover, we continue to promote and support collaborative actions within the sportswear and apparel industry to gain greater leverage in improving the environmental impacts of factory operations. This is shown through our active membership within key industry groups. For example, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Roadmap toward Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC), the AFIRM Working Group on Restricted Substances, the Chemicals Management Working Group of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and in the Global Social Compliance Program (GSCP).
Read about the most important steps of our program so far.
For our products, we have never used SF6 gases, which are amongst the most severe ozone depleting substances.
- In 1989, we banned the use of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) in our supply chain, for all our products.
- In 1998, we adopted a comprehensive and detailed Restricted Substances Policy for product materials, prohibiting the use of chemicals considered as harmful or toxic. Not only does the policy cover the strictest local requirements, it also includes best practice standards as recommended by consumer organizations. It was the first policy in the industry that clearly indicated test and pre-treatment methods for restricted substances.
- In 1999, we launched our general compliance auditing program which included and considered environmental, health and safety impacts of our main manufacturing partners, including the handling, storage and use of chemicals in the workplace and waste and wastewater treatment and disposal.
- In the year 2000, we committed to the phase-out of PVC materials from our main product categories – the first company in our industry to do so.
- In the year 2000, we introduced new technologies to significantly reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in footwear manufacturing by using innovative bonding technologies and water-based cement systems.
- In 2002, we launched adidas’ 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.
- In 2002, we were the first in our industry to introduce a ban on six high risk and hazardous chemicals used in our manufacturing facilities.
- In 2004, we were among the founding members of the Better Cotton Initiative, which 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.
- In 2006, adidas joined the Leather Working Group and committed to the implementation of an audit protocol for all our leather suppliers. The protocol sets standards for sound chemical management at tannery sites, with a focus on restricted substances, water effluents, hazardous waste and emissions.
- In 2008, we started environmental audits for our suppliers – 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 have been included into our audit scope as well. In 2012, nearly 200 environmental audits were conducted, 50 of which were at mills and dyehouses.
- In 2010, we launched adidas’ Environmental Strategy, which includes chemicals as one important environmental aspect.
- In 2010, we also published a new and dedicated Environmental Guideline, detailing our policy on hazardous chemicals and chemical substitution. We expanded our list of banned chemicals to 12, based on toxicity and potential health risk.
- In 2011, we committed to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals in our supply chain by 2020.
- In 2012, we launched adidas DryDye, a new technology which eliminates the need for water in the dyeing process, therefore also reducing the use of chemicals.
- In 2013, in the framework of the Joint Roadmap for the elimination of hazardous chemicals by 2020, we committed to phase out the use of long-chain PFCs by no later than January 1, 2015. As a further step, we have committed to being 90% PFC free in our products as of June 15, 2014, and 99% PFC-free by no later than December 31, 2017.
- In 2014, we announced a strategic partnership with bluesign technologies to further drive sustainable solutions in adidas’ global supply chain.
- In 2016, we started to implement the Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) from the ZDHC, which is banning and restricting certain substances from entering the manufacturing processes, across all divisions: Apparel, Footwear and A&G.
- 2017: More thann 99% of our adidas products for spring/ summer seaon 2018 are free of PFC.
The key elements of our chemical management program are as follows:
- Product safety: In our sector, the acronym “RSL” stands for Restricted Substances List, the purpose of which is to reduce the use of hazardous substances in the textile and apparel supply chain. In 1998, we adopted a comprehensive and detailed Restricted Substances Policy for product materials, prohibiting the use of chemicals considered as harmful or toxic. From that moment on, we have continued to develop and update our mature policies which ban or restrict chemicals in our products. Click here to download the policy.
- Environmental Audit Program: Over the years, we have developed a series of guidelines for suppliers. For example, the Health & Safety Guidelines specify chemicals that cannot be used during manufacturing because they can affect workers’ health. Comprehensive and detailed standards for suppliers on handling, storage and disposal of chemicals are instead part of adidas' Environmental Guidelines, which also specify standards for waste water treatment and effluents. They are the basis for factory inspections and assessments conducted by us and external auditors.
- Chemical input: In order to further guide our suppliers with input chemical chemistry selection, we are partnering up with bluesign® and we are going to implement their chemical data management system, the bluefinder. With this, our suppliers select best-in-class chemicals through bluesign® bluefinder, so that they can produce materials using chemicals that are included in the database.
- Disclosure: In recent years, adidas has been increasingly focused on promoting public reporting and transparency within the supply chain. To ensure more transparency and disclosure about the environmental impacts caused by industry operations, adidas has developed guidance material for its suppliers covering the issue of Information Disclosure, with particular focus on pollutant release.
- Partnerships: We are not in this alone though. 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. This is why we collaborate with peers to improve our industry. For example, to further strengthen our own programmes on controlling and monitoring restricted substances, adidas is an active member in the Apparel & Footwear International Restricted Substances (RS) Management Working Group (AFIRM), which we co-founded in 2004, together with six other international brands. Read more about our engagement within the AFIRM group here. Or, in 2011 adidas joined a group of brands that developed a joint roadmap towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals (ZDHC) in the supply chain by 2020. It is an ambitious plan, one that sets new standards of environmental performance for the global apparel and footwear industry.