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adidas is one of the most forward-thinking large brands when it comes to sustainability. It already uses a high proportion of eco-friendly materials in its apparel, and an increasing percentage in footwear. By 2024 adidas will only use recycled polyester in all products across the business. For over 20 years is has had Workplace Standards in place to set mandatory requirements for fair and safe working conditions and appropriate wages at suppliers.
For the SS21 season, the average percentage of recycled materials in the adidas apparel range stocked by The Sports Edit will be 66%. This is increasing every season, and will hit 100% by 2024. In terms of footwear, in 2020 adidas made nearly 20 million pairs of shoes using recycled plastic waste from beaches and coastal regions (11 million in 2019, 5m in 2018,1m in 2017). A total of 85% of the adidas footwear styles stocked by The Sports Edit in 2021 are PRIMEBLUE (a performance fabric which contains Parley Ocean Plastic) or PRIMEGREEN (a performance fabric that contains no virgin plastic, using a high percentage of sustainable materials). adidas is also part of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), and has been sourcing 100% sustainable cotton since 2018. The BCI supports efficient water use, crop rotation and fair working conditions. In 2019, adidas became a co-founder of Microfibre Consortium, which develops innovative tools that lower the release of microfibres into the environment.
Labour welfare standards across the adidas supply chain are good. It has a transparent code of conduct through the adidas Workplace Standards, which form the basis of contractual obligations around workers’ rights and health and safety standards with manufacturing partners, and is consistent with International Labour Organization (ILO) employment practises. adidas uses a KPI rating system for social compliance across all factories, allowing it to impose consistent labour standards across a large and complex supply chain. adidas is a founding member of the Fair Labor Association, and a commitment to independent and unannounced factory inspections and external verification of its programs. It conducts approximately 1200 factory audits a year. adidas scores 69% in the Fashion Revolution Transparency Index, which is the highest of any major sports brand, and in the top 5 of 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands that are rated annually. Note that no brand scores over 80%. Whilst it references efforts to ensure ‘fair compensation’, we have not seen evidence it ensures workers are paid a living wage across a majority of its supply chain.
adidas is working with suppliers to continually reduce their environmental footprint, particularly around water and chemical use, and energy reduction. It has achieved a 29-34% water usage reduction across suppliers, and by following a holistic chemical management program, has a positive effect on water quality. The company aims to achieve100% sustainable input chemistry, and over 80% of dyestuffs are now Bluesign approved. It is a founding member of ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) which sets exacting standards of wastewater. Across its key manufacturing partners, it has reduced energy consumption by 22%, and over 20% of its overall suppliers use renewable energy. Overall adidas is targeting a 30% reduction in its own and its suppliers’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2017 levels.