Adidas Commits to 100% Sustainable Cotton Apparel

Adidas Commits to 100% Sustainable Cotton Apparel

Adidas shoe - CC license by dyobmit (Flickr)

 Ranging among sustainable cotton, resource cuts and data center efficiency, Adidas Group's latest sustainability report gives a detailed look at the company's plans for the next five years.

Adidas' Environmental Strategy 2015 has the overall goal of lowering its environmental impact by 15 percent by 2015, relative to sales. Within that are many more goals covering product design, sourcing, marketing, company operations and other points in product life cycles.

The company notes that some projects will be heavily reliant on their suppliers and others in their industry to bring change.

"The major environmental impact of our operations occurs in the manufacturing of our products and the downstream supply chain," the report says. "We only have a limited influence in this area as we have outsourced most production. Therefore, collaboration with other organisations in our industry is critical to build a consensus and the critical mass to develop effective solutions."

One area being targeted is cotton, with Adidas aiming to have 100 percent of the cotton it uses meet the Better Cotton Initiative's standards by 2018 (40 percent is planned to meet the standards by 2015).

"Rather than individual product teams seeking sustainable cotton, it will simply become standard across all our apparel," wrote Adidas Group CEO Herbert Hainer in the report.

Adidas, along with H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., Marks & Spencer and IKEA, founded the Better Cotton Fast Track Program, companies that teamed up to fund farmer education and accelerate the switchover to Better Cotton Initiative standards. The first harvest of so-called Better Cotton was in October 2010.

Leather is another material other companies have come together over, in this case through the Leather Working Group, which sets standards for tanneries and rates them. By 2015, Adidas wants all of its tanneries outside of Europe to have achieved a silver or gold rating (the two highest levels) from the Leather Working Group.

By the end of this year, though, Adidas wants at least 80 percent, by value, of leather it sources to come from gold-rated tanneries; 70 percent of its leather, by value, already comes from gold tanneries, and 26 percent comes from silver tanneries.

Adidas plans to track more of the sustainable materials it uses through a system called String it developed. Intended to trace the supply paths of materials, String was introduced to suppliers last year. While the system is "well used," Adidas says, it wil work to get more suppliers to use it.

Back to product design, Adidas will cut the number of colors it uses in half (it currently uses about 800 colors) and will add more sustainable materials to its toolboxes, which are made up of pre-selected base materials and colors for designers to work with. The materials and colors are chosen based on their ability to provide efficiencies during production, consume less water and energy, and create less waste.

Along with seeking more sustainable materials from suppliers, Adidas will work with its suppliers to reduce their emissions. Adidas wants to shrink its carbon footprint by at least 10 percent, mainly by reducing energy and switching to energy sources that put out less carbon. Since Adidas already has a carbon management program for its own sites, it will mainly be working within its supply chain to seek out more cuts, and will be conducting more environmental assessment at key suppliers' facilities.

In its own operations, Adidas plans to cut energy by 20 percent, water by 20 percent, waste by 25 percent and paper by 50 percent (the last three are on a per employee basis), all by 2015. Another effort that will bring down energy is Adidas' goal to reduce the impact of its IT operations by 20 percent by using power management setting in computers, virtualizing servers and consolidating at data centers.

Adidas shoe - CC license by dyobmit (Flickr)