The guiding principle of Adi Dassler, the founder of adidas, is simple: to make athletes better. That is why, at adidas, innovation is at the core of all our products. The choice of materials and how they are manufactured are the two main ways by which our innovation teams can influence the environmental footprint of our products. To mention some examples: Avoiding oil-based plastic helps reduce carbon emissions. Thinner or lighter materials mean less waste and less embedded carbon. Dry-dyeing clothes saves water, chemicals and energy. Approaching the innovation challenge from an environmental perspective helps us make products that are better for consumers and better for the planet, too.
Here are examples of where environmentally friendly innovative ideas and new technologies have been used in the creation of our products.
Since 2015, adidas has partnered up with the environmental organization ,Parley for the Oceans’ and uses
Parley Ocean Plastic as an eco-innovative replacement for virgin plastic. We continued to roll out Parley
Ocean Plastic across key categories and introduced our own label in 2020 for products that contain a
certain amount of Parley Ocean Plastic: Primeblue.
In 2020, we produced more than 15 million pairs of shoes containing Parley Ocean Plastic. Our target for 2021 is to produce 17 million pairs of such shoes
adidas strengthens its commitment to tackling plastic waste with the reveal of FUTURECRAFT.LOOP – a 100% recyclable performance running shoe. The FUTURECRAFT.LOOP project is aimed at tackling the problem of plastic waste, enabling a “closed loop” or circular manufacturing model, where the raw materials can be repurposed again and again. But not just repurposed into a water bottle or a tote, but into another pair of high-performance running shoes.
Using more recycled polyester is a way we seek to improve our environmental footprint while
still making high-performance products for the athlete. 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 several seasons.
The ‘Primeblue’ and ‘Primegreen’ labels, which were introduced in 2020, mark products made with recycled materials. While offering full functionality and durability in sports, they avoid waste and preserve natural resources.
Packaging protects our products during shipping, handling and storage, and ensures that our consumers receive them in sound condition. When it comes to packaging, we are working towards the following sustainable design principles:
- Avoid and reduce packaging wherever possible.
- Use recycled and recyclable materials.
- Use materials that are commonly recycled.
- Avoid gluing and laminations.
- Design the packaging from a single material where possible to improve recyclability.
- Design packaging for assembly at the point of manufacture to decrease transportation impacts.
- Design for disassembly.
- Design for distribution.
- Clearly mark the materials on the packaging components to facilitate recycling.
- Avoid materials which contain restricted substances.
We have already made considerable progress, e.g. by reducing the weight of our standard shoeboxes, changing our transport boxes from double-wall to single-wall, eliminating the use of shoe stuffing and shifting to the use of recycled or certified materials.
In 2020, we used approximately 101,000 tons of product paper packaging of which more than 90% was recycled material, mostly for shoeboxes, and around 5,300 tons of polybags made of polyethylene. We continue working to further reduce our packaging footprint.
In line with our commitment to END PLASTIC WASTE, we are especially committed to reducing our plastic footprint globally. We are proud of the success we have seen in recent years, such as the phase-out of plastic bags in our own retail stores globally in 2016 and the elimination of single-use plastics across the majority of adidas locations worldwide as of 2018.
Where the use of plastics is still unavoidable, such as in transport packaging, adidas is working to find sustainable alternatives. For example, together with the global innovation platform ‘Fashion for Good’, the company has been exploring the development of a recycling infrastructure for used polybags as well as innovative recycling processes for polybags, testing the technical feasibility of polybag circularity. A summary of the pilot’s success is available here: Circular-Polybag.pdf (fashionforgood.com)
In addition, we aim to reduce the use of virgin plastic and have set ourselves the goal to transition to 100% recycled LDPE polybags by the end of 2021. We are well on track and have achieved our targets of using 20% recycled polybags in the fall/winter season 2020, and 70% recycled polybags in the spring/summer season 2021.
As part of adidas’ transition to 100% recycled LDPE polybags, we re-engineered our polybags to reduce their weight by 20%. This directly translates into a related footprint reduction.
In addition, adidas is exploring plastic-free alternatives.