When it comes to sportswear, Adidas is one of the biggest brands out there. With collaborations with fashion houses like Stella McCartney and Khaite, it’s difficult to ignore that Adidas has been propelling itself into the high fashion world. But does high-end fashion mean high-end sustainability?
Sportswear companies don’t have the best reputation when it comes to ethical and sustainable practices. Luckily, Adidas is an exception. Here’s what you should know about Adidas and if it’s a company worth supporting.
Their Environmental Impact
It’s not uncommon for a brand’s environmental goals and actions to be worlds apart. Large corporations love to make promises, but hardly actually keep them. Adidas is one of the few companies out there that has made clear steps towards reaching its sustainability goals.
Adidas recognizes that manufacturing plastic is a huge problem, which is why they’ve committed to finding ways to significantly reduce their virgin plastic consumption. They aim to eliminate virgin plastic from their products by 2024 and have partnered with Parley for the Oceans to manufacture products made from waste collected from oceans. Adidas’s Parley Ocean Plastic is primarily made from plastic bottles recovered from the seas, which are then ground up and spun into yarn.
By the year 2025, Adidas hopes to be carbon neutral. According to their records, they’ve reduced their C02 consumption by 26 percent and their water consumption by 21 percent since 2017.
They are also working on providing renewable energy sources to their main suppliers in Vietnam.
Unlike other large sportswear brands, *cough* Nike *cough*, Adidas is moving forward to becoming a green company at an impressive pace.
The People Making the Goods
Unfortunately, being kind to the environment and being kind to the people who work in the said environment do not always come hand in hand. When it comes to labor conditions for Adidas workers, there is room for improvement.
They have done a good job implementing policies to protect employees from Covid and perform traces and audits on its supply chains. However, Adidas has not made any public attempts to pay its workers a living wage. This means that the workers (who are mostly women) making hundred-dollar shoes all day long are not getting fairly compensated for their work. Meanwhile, Adidas is happy to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on promoting their shoes, clothes, and accessories.
Adidas has also been linked to the Uighur forced labor scandal that surfaced in March 2020. The sportswear company is one of 83 multinationals that have taken advantage of the ethnic minorities’ labor. According to Forbes, “Some brands including Adidas… told ASPI they had no direct contractual relationships with the suppliers indicated in the report, but no one could rule out a link further down their supply chain.
The Protests and Politics
Similar to Nike, Adidas has profited off of Black celebrities and culture while failing to diversify its workforce. The experience of Black employees at Adidas has been anything but acceptable. Julia Bond, a former assistant apparel designer at Adidas had a plethora of racist and demoralizing experiences when working for the company “from remarks about her hair and skin to Confederate imagery on a mood board.”
In the summer of 2020, countless employees joined together to protest the lack of diversity in front of Adidas’ North American headquarters in Portland. In response, Adidas has said “that 30 percent of new hires would be black or Latino.” It’s a step in the right direction, but is it enough to eradicate decades of systematic racism in corporate America?
Unfortunately, Adidas still uses animal leather and wool in some of its goods. It does not use fur or exotic animal skins, but animals are still killed to make several Adidas sneaker and accessory styles.
Adidas has made genuine efforts to become a green company, from reducing its carbon emissions to eradicating virgin plastic from its supply chain. However, there’s still a lot of work to be done, especially when it comes to paying workers living wages and providing a safe space for BIPOC employees.
For more information about Adidas’s sustainability goals, check out their page here.
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