According to a 2011 MIT Sloan School of Management study, 67 percent of global executives say that sustainability strategies are necessary to be competitive. As a global leader in the sporting goods industry, the adidas Group recently redesigned its sustainability journey into a “4Ps” model emphasizing people, product, planet, and partnership. Now, as part of its mature chemical management program, the company will screen and manage chemical input at the supplier level through a recent partnership with bluesign technologies, a company dedicated to sustainable movement within textile industries. Considering the adidas Group’s subsequent commitment to go 99 percent PFC-free by no later than 2017, the German-based company is well on its way to bolstering its corporate responsibility edge.
With more than 50,000 employees in 161 offices globally, the multinational retailer has long prioritized measures of sustainability that go above and beyond legal standards. In 2000, it became one of the first companies in the global consumer goods sector to eliminate PVC, one of the most toxic plastics, from its products and is currently moving toward printing with phthalate-free inks, since phthalate is a suspected carcinogen. The Group relentlessly innovates product, always ensuring environmental considerations are part of the creation processes - such as in the case of the adidas Element Refine Tricot shoe, the flagship product of the adidas “Low Waste” initiative, which minimizes waste thanks to its simplified design and 95% of pattern efficiency.
Although groundbreaking products like the adidas Element Refine are the end-result of an organic thought-process, adidas also emphasizes the process by which these products are manufactured. DryDye, a water-free technology that adidas uses during the polyester fabric dyeing process, for example, was a massive breakthrough when it was first introduced in 2012 and has now become representational of the company’s cohesive “Design for Environment” approach. After the success of the initial trial of 50,000 T-shirts, adidas has used more than 2 million yards of DryDye fabric to date, saving 50 million liters of water, and is planning to achieve 4 million yards of fabric by the end of 2014. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, it’s estimated that by 2025, 1,800 million people will be living in regions with absolute water scarcity while two-thirds of the world will be under stress conditions; for this reason, adidas understands that technology like DryDye is imperative to the sustainability of the environment as well as the company’s profit margins.
While product innovation is a major pillar within adidas’ “4Ps,” forming partnerships with organizations dedicated to protecting the planet is another important one. As a founding member of the Better Cotton Initiative, which targets the reduction of pesticide-use while also promoting efficient water use, crop rotation, and fair working conditions, adidas has exceeded its 2013 goal of using 15 percent Better Cotton, putting the company on track for its goal of sourcing 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2018.
From its “Design for Environment” approach, to the marketing of potential cutting-edge concepts, to the ongoing global efforts which take place externally, the adidas Group has an integrated and mature corporate responsibility strategy that has led to cutting-edge developments in the sustainability sphere.