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Here Are 5 Reasons Adidas Deserves the 2021 Sustainability Leadership Award

On Nov. 30, Adidas will be honored with the Sustainability Leadership Award at the 35th annual FN Achievement Awards. Below is an article from the magazine’s Nov. 29 print issue about its latest eco-minded projects.

At Adidas, the drive to improve its environmental impact has become an integral part of its business — at every level. “We have teams fully dedicated to sustainability and identifying new technologies, innovations, materials, designs and processes that are sustainable,” said Caroline Lew-Wolf, VP of business development for Adidas North America. Like many fashion and footwear players, the company has set a goal for its entire supply chain to be carbon neutral by 2050, in support of the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement that aim to curb rising global temperatures and the resulting climate change.

But if you think that 30-year timeframe means Adidas is moving slow, you’re wrong. It also has set a more-aggressive deadline of 2025 to reach carbon neutrality for its own operations, and to reduce the carbon emissions of its products by 15%. By that year, it also aims for nine out of 10 products to be sustainable (right now, six out of 10 are).

The company’s efforts have already earned it high marks with consumers. In an April survey of nearly 5,000 men and women globally, conducted by Stifel and Morning Consult, Adidas scored in the top five among all active/casual brands, based on its environmental sustainability, ethical business practices and community stewardship.

“Adidas has been a real thought leader in the area of sustainability,” said Stifel analyst Jim Duffy. He noted that awareness of the brand’s efforts is strongest in Europe, opening up opportunity for the North America division to further broadcast its eco-friendly mission among consumers.

Here, Lew-Wolf identifies five initiatives in 2021 that advanced the brand’s sustainability goals.

Choose to Give Back

“This fall with ThredUp, we launched the Adidas Choose to Give Back program to extend the product lifecycle. Consumers can send us used product from any brand via the Adidas Creators Club and it will be reused or resold,” said Lew-Wolf. That launch marked Adidas’ first foray into the rapidly growing resale business.

Adidas x Allbirds

Few collaborations this year generated quite as much excitement as this union between competitors. “Last year with Allbirds, we announced our ambition to create a performance running shoe with no carbon footprint. This year, we introduced Futurecraft.Footprint — each pair has just 2.94 kilograms of carbon dioxide and is created with 63% less emissions than a comparable running shoe,” she said.

Allbirds Adidas Futurecraft.Footprint
A closeup of the Allbirds x Adidas Futurecraft.Footprint shoe.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Allbirds

Parley for the Oceans

This year, Adidas unveiled two new styles from its ongoing collaboration: the Ultraboost 21 x Parley, a performance shoe featuring an upper made in part with Primeblue, a high-performance recycled yarn containing 50% Parley Ocean Plastic; and the Ultraboost 6.0 DNA x Parley, also created with Primeblue as well as recycled plastics (20% of which comes from reprocessed fishing nets). “With Parley for the Oceans, we collect and recycle plastic waste found on beaches and in coastal regions before it gets to the oceans, then we transform it into high-performance sportswear. This year, we’ll produce 17 million pairs of shoes using plastic waste intercepted from beaches and coastal communities. We’ve created 30 million pairs since our partnership began in 2015,” said Lew-Wolf.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Adidas

Made to Be Remade

“On Earth Day, we launched the Ultraboost DNA Made to be Remade. Once it’s worn out, consumers can return it to us, then we’ll grind it up and remake it into something new,” said Lew-Wolf. Since then, the brand has quickly expanded on the Made to be Remade initiative, rolling out a version of the classic Stan Smith made entirely of TPU, as well as a Terrex hiker and apparel.

Adidas Made to Be Remade Ultraboost
The “Made to Be Remade” tongue branding of the new Adidas Ultraboost of the same name.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Adidas

Stan Smith Mylo

Recently, fashion labels have explored using mushroom-based leather alternatives to make handbags, but Adidas broke new ground with footwear this year. “We partnered with Bolt Threads for their natural Mylo material, made with mycelium, the root-like structure from mushrooms. This spring, we introduced our Stan Smith Mylo,” said Lew-Wolf. “We expect to have a commercially available proof of concept in the near future.”

Adidas Stan Smith Mylo
Adidas Stan Smith Mylo.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Adidas

For 35 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards ­— often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The 2021 event is supported by presenting sponsor Nordstrom, as well as Authentic Brands Group, FDRA, Informa, On and Wolverine Worldwide.

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