Climate neutral by 2050: This is Adidas' sustainability plan

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The sporting goods giant Adidas has set itself ambitious goals. From 2024, only recycled plastic will be used, and by 2050 all production is to be climate-neutral. The company's own plan is characterized by the "three-loop strategy", with which partner Parley also helps, but also the promotion of a sustainable lifestyle among customers.

Mann läuft auf der Wiese
From 2024, Adidas will only use recycled plastic and by 2050 the manufacturer wants to be climate neutral.

Who knows what the world will look like in 2050? After all, the authors who write about it in 2021 are still producing science fiction novels. And so far, the past has taught us that things did not turn out exactly as the authors had imagined.

The situation is quite different when it comes to entrepreneurial innovations. Companies have always been developing new things for the future. And even air taxis are supposed to exist soon. Of course, the sporting goods giant Adidas has also set itself ambitious goals for the next few years.

At ISPO Munich Online 2021, the Herzogenaurach-based company gave an insight into how it plans to implement its sustainability plan. The strategic goal is: "We want to achieve climate neutrality by 2050," says Frank Henke, Adidas Sustainable Senior VP.

Adidas' goals

In times of global warming, the topic of sustainability is becoming increasingly important worldwide; not only are the "Fridays for Future" and the media issuing warnings, but governments are also reacting with restrictions. And among customers as well as companies, the sense of responsibility for the environment is increasing. "People understand that their behavior has an effect," says Carla Murphy, general manager of Adidas Corporate Social Responsibility. “Now we need to be part of the solution - not the problem."

End Plastic Waste - only recycled polyester by 2024

So, of course, there need to be milestones to reach the big goal. The first of which is "End Plastic Waste." Plastic bags and plastic in the company's own office have long been eliminated, but Adidas has not yet reached the goal for its products. By 2024, however, the company plans to use only recycled polyester.

In the current collection, the Adidas-Terrex team focuses strongly on durability. To this end, the products were also developed with extreme athletes in order to test them in the best possible way under extreme conditions. The color combinations (white, blue, brown-reddish) are inspired by glaciers.

The Three-Loop Strategy

"This is not a quick concept, this is a long-term agreement." Carla Murphy and her comrades-in-arms are serious. To that end, they have developed the "Three-Loop Strategy," the three building blocks to guarantee product sustainability in the future:

  • Recycled Loop (replace new plastic with recycled plastic.

  • Circular Loop (products that can be directly recycled after being thrown away)

  • Regenerative Loop (products made from natural materials such as cells or proteins that can be returned to nature at the end of their life)

Development is still at the beginning of the chain, but a prototype anorak has already been developed for the Circular Loop. The Regenerative Loop is currently being worked on.

Three Loop Strategy by Adidas
Three-loop strategy: building blocks for the future of product sustainability.
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The perfect symbiosis - with partners like Parley and Primaloft

"Partnerships can help us reach a new level," Murphy says. At the moment, she's referring primarily to the partnership with Parley for the Oceans, which has been in place since 2015, but also with Primaloft, which has been in place since 2020.

Adidas X Parley has already achieved a lot, it is the driving force behind the success of the Recycled Loop. The collaboration started in 2015 with a shoe made of ocean plastic, but now the recycled plastic is just not found only in the shoes. The two partners have also developed "Primeblue", a high-performance recycled material made partly from ocean plastic. It is the basis for the 2024 goal of using only recycled plastic.

Recycling Loop by Adidas
Three-loop strategy: building blocks for the future of product sustainability.
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Performance is above all - and also the style is not renounced

However, sustainability should never be pursued at the expense of performance, say those responsible at Adidas, there is no compromise: "If I'm standing on a 4,000-meter mountain in bad conditions and my jacket possibly draws water, then I have a problem," says Wolfgang Thanner, Director Outdoor Field Specialist at Adidas. In that case, he's speaking from the customer's point of view, but in the next step, of course, the brand also has a problem.

It's a similar story with style: "A young consumer wants to get out into nature," says Thanner. "But he doesn't want to look like outdoor used to look." That's why, in addition to innovation and sustainability, his brand also relies on a youthful, modern style.

Adidas shows that sustainability, performance and style don't have to be mutually exclusive.
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Promoting sustainability among sportspeople as well

However, Adidas does not only want to work sustainably with its products - the company now also aims to promote a certain sustainable lifestyle among the people who buy the products. The company wants to encourage sport and thus improve the health of all.

To that end, it now has programs on nearly every continent, including the Adidas Runners Community, which offers a running community in various cities and is dedicated to: "We run with each other - not against each other - pushing each other to achieve personal bests." Personal development, he says, ultimately goes beyond best times. Another Adidas program includes competitions such as the Infinite Trails, which encourage people to participate.

"What's really important is that we don't stop. As a team, as a group of brands here at ISPO, we can make the change," Murphy said at ISPO Munich Online 2021. Ambitious goals can only be achieved together.

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