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Written by Weavabel, published 04/12/23 08:00
Adidas is a global giant in the sports and fashion industry, but is it leading the pack regarding sustainability? Known for its iconic three stripes, a brand of this size likely has no choice but to commit to focusing on its environmental and ethical practices, with consumers’ demand for change at an all-time high.
Is Adidas sustainable? While the German brand focuses on sustainable products like its Parley range, uses recycled materials in its garments and footwear, and innovates its packaging to be more environmentally friendly, the lines are blurry.
In some instances, Adidas is doing things well — and the brand doesn’t hide its commitments and targets either.
In its roadmap, Adidas has also highlighted clear targets for 2025 and beyond, some of which include:
While the German brand’s commitments and achievements deserve praise, the current outlook on whether Adidas is sustainable highlights that it needs more work.
Like most brands, Adidas has set targets but isn’t necessarily meeting the ambitious goals. One of those is eliminating harmful chemicals by 2025.
While Adidas says it’s on track, the Carbon Disclosure Project climate and water questionnaires suggest otherwise. For instance, high-performing brands rated ‘Good’ score A- or A — Adidas has scored a B.
Good on You has also looked into Adidas’ sustainability efforts, stating it’s a start, but the brand needs to do more. For example, Good on You highlighted that although Adidas is taking limited steps to prevent deforestation, it falls short in publishing its own policy.
It also found that Adidas doesn’t have enough evidence to suggest it has policies to protect biodiversity in its supply chain.
What doesn’t help Adidas is its involvement in greenwashing, something a jury found the brand guilty of in court. It was revealed that Adidas was misleading its consumers over environmental claims back in 2021, as it didn't inform consumers how much of its new Stan Smith shoe range was recycled.
The claims suggested the use of ‘50% recycled’ meant shoppers would assume 50% of the Stan Smith materials were made from recycled materials — which turned out to be a false claim.
Adidas is taking measures to consider animal welfare. For example, the brand doesn’t use cashmere, angora or exotic animal hair or skins — something to be commended but also a basic expectation for a brand of this size.
Although this is a good first step, Adidas continues to use down feathers, wool and leather in its products without highlighting the material sources. Adidas does, however, state it has a policy to source wool from non-mulesed sheep, but there isn’t enough evidence to verify these claims.
Again, Adidas is taking the right initial steps by having an animal welfare policy. But by using the materials highlighted above — as well as using kangaroo leather, which is now a critical animal welfare issue — Adidas can and should do more to protect animals.
The people behind Adidas’ innovative products shouldn’t be forgotten — the workers employed to bring Adidas’ products to life in the supply chain. The German company revealed its policies on protecting workers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and also received accreditation by the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct for its social auditing programme.
Although the brand has committed to a slave-free supply chain, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely ethical. The Fashion Transparency Index scored Adidas at 51-60%, a drop from its previous 61-70% score.
Most of Adidas's focus and criticism comes from its reported failure to pay its supply chain workers a living wage. The issue comes to light even more when you consider The Foul Play report, which looks at the money involved in sponsorships and marketing compared to how much supply chain workers receive for their efforts.
In 2020, Adidas also faced criticism as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute linked the brand to forced Uighur labour.
Not entirely, but the brand is taking the right steps to ensure it’s becoming part of the solution. Whether it’s the product ranges, committing to targets or changing the materials and packaging it uses, these are all small yet impactful steps in the right direction.
Although Adidas is a global brand and an industry leader, it can’t achieve true sustainability alone. It needs to be an industry-wide focus, with the most influential brands paving the way for others to follow.
For Adidas, there’s still some way to go before it can be considered a genuinely sustainable brand.
Every sportswear brand has to start somewhere. While a leader like Adidas has undergone initiatives, yet should still be further ahead, it doesn’t mean small changes don’t make a big difference over time.
A great place to start is your packaging and trims, covered in more detail over on our sportswear hub. Get access today using the button below and begin doing your part to become a more sustainable sportswear brand.
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