How Adidas Became a Global Leader in Sustainability
Using less water, cutting back energy consumption, and helping keep plastic trash out of the ocean are just the start. Adidas’s company-wide sustainability initiatives are impressive as they are vast.
For more than 20 years, adidas has quietly and consistently worked to become a more sustainable brand. Company-wide ambitions include cutting in half the amount of water its apparel material suppliers use and phasing out the use of virgin plastic from all its products, stores, and offices around the globe by 2020. Adidas is also on target to cut its waste in half and trim its key suppliers’ energy consumption by 20 percent.
With these goals in mind, adidas has teamed up with Parley for the Oceans, a global network of creators, thinkers, and leaders from a variety of industries who have pulled together to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of the ocean and collaborate on projects to end their destruction. Through their partnership, adidas is helping to keep plastic trash out of our oceans and then upcycling that waste to create high-performance apparel and footwear. At the same time, adidas’s ZeroDye fabric initiative uses far less water, energy, and chemicals to manufacture the material for some of the company’s shoes. Christian Zwinger, design director of footwear for adidas’s outdoor-sports-focused Terrex line, says the program hits close to his team’s heart. “We’re all outdoor athletes, and the environments we enjoy are our most precious training grounds. So it is important to figure out how to do less harm,” he says. “We know that positive change must happen step-by-step, and we know it will take many steps.”
What makes adidas’s efforts even more impressive is its overarching belief that making quality products is just as important as reducing waste and employing recycled materials. “Many assume sustainability is only about materials and processes,” says Zwinger. “But it’s also about quality, about making a product that we love because it performs well and ages well, that has a history with us, and that won’t fall apart and need to be replaced.” Highlighted here are two of adidas Terrex’s many steps toward sustainability, which together are delivering high-performance gear that’s good for the planet.
Parley Ocean Plastic™
Adidas’s partnership with Parley launched in 2015 and works like this: First, Parley and its partner organizations head into the field to reclaim a portion of the millions of tons of plastic littering the world’s shorelines. Then adidas and Parley recycle it into apparel, shoes, and even clothing hangers. For Zwinger and the rest of the team working on the Terrex line, the raw material comes with a welcome learning curve. “The recycled content in our shoes and clothes gets higher and higher every year as we learn how to reconstruct a product to use more and more recycled materials,” he says. “Ultimately, the goal is to make a shoe from 100 percent recycled materials that can be shredded and recycled into new products.”
Wear it: This spring, you’ll find Parley Ocean Plastic™ in 28 adidas Terrex products, including shoes, tops, and shorts for men and women, including the Agravic Top (above). Later this fall, look for one of the most technical applications of this recycled plastic yet, the Terrex Parley 3-Layer Jacket. This lightweight waterproof jacket uses layers of breathable Climaproof fabric to keep you dry and comfortable and an outer shell made with plastic from the Parley collaboration.
Gear designed for nature should be as natural as possible, right? With adidas ZeroDye that sentiment becomes reality. “By leaving fibers in their natural color, our suppliers have a simpler process,” says Zwinger, “and we have a cleaner fabric with all the performance characteristics we want.” And, in the end, the consumer gets products that put less environmental strain on the planet without compromising functionality. ZeroDye debuted in 2014 in the Terrex line, and by skipping the dyeing process and using undyed polyester instead, adidas is able to cut back its water consumption.
Wear it: The Terrex Two Boas are the perfect marriage of sustainable materials and high-performance features. The outsoles are made with rubber from Continental, the tire company; a Boa closure provides a secure, customized fit; and the white uppers are cut from undyed fabric, providing a blank canvas for you to color with whatever terrain you run them through.