Adidas Challenges The World Of Fashion
The world’s second-largest sportswear manufacturer pledges to embrace recycled plastics and eliminate the use of virgin polyester by 2024
Fashion houses have disappointingly lagged at responding to their consumers’ growing demand for environmentally accountable, sustainable vogue.
Sustainably-acceptable style has primarily been limited to niche vogue manufacturers — Patagonia, Everlane, Rothy’s, Toad & Co, Eileen Fisher — and to narrower product classes within the business. It has yet to be adopted across the complete product spectrum.
That is — until Adidas got in the way.
The winds of change have come with Adidas’ daring new initiative looking to eliminate all virgin polyester (i.e. artificial cilia) in its products by 2024.
Adidas, founded Aug 18, 1949 in Germany by Adolf Dassler, is the world’s second-largest sportswear manufacturer after Nike. Ranked №1 in international sales in the apparel add-ons category in Forbes world’s biggest public companies record, Adidas will simply use best-recycled plastics in all its shoes and clothing.
But the implications for Adidas and the rest of the trend business are obscure. Given that the majority of the materials it uses in its items are made of or incorporate a significant amount of polyester, Eric Liedtke, Head of Global Brands at Adidas, stated, “Our intention is to do away with virgin polyester by 2024.”
Adidas’s choice follows initial success in promoting recycled plastic footwear. Gil Steyaert, responsible for global operations stated, “In 2018 alone, we saved more than 40 tons of plastic waste in our offices, retail stores, warehouses and distribution centers worldwide and replaced it with more sustainable solutions,” in a company statement.
Polyester is the mainstay fiber of the fashion industry. Market intelligence enterprise Plastic Insights reports polyester accounts for 55% of the global fiber market.
If that’s not enough, the Ocean Conservancy states, “Every year, eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters the oceans where it joins an estimated 150 million metric tons that already circulates there.”
The tons of plastic waste ending up in US landfills alone is not pretty, either.
However, it’s not that other brands are not trying to make a difference. From Zara to fashion powerhouses like LVMH and Stella McCartney are making strides in creating sustainable business plans for achieving sustainability goals, such as using biological, sustainable and/or recycled fabrics in its collections, to producing responsible, environmentally sound, and acceptable fashion for all.
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Nike, on the other hand, the largest sportswear manufacturer in the world, is not nearly as aggressive sustainably relative to Adidas, despite its claims. With its new, ambitious commitment, Adidas is effectively challenging Nike and other laid back major apparel brands to think green and adopt a sustainable framework for producing sustainable fashion.
Boston Consulting Group has also criticized the global fashion industry, reporting that the global fashion agenda and affiliated apparel groups are merely taking “baby steps” in a time that warrants larger, more vital steps of action:
The report goes on to state, “Projections suggest that by 2030 the global apparel and footwear industry will have grown by 81%, to 102 million tons, exerting an unprecedented strain on planetary resources. Fashion companies are not implementing sustainable solutions fast enough to counterbalance negative environmental and social impacts of the rapidly growing fashion industry.”
Using the Pulse Index as an objective measure of the fashion industry’s social and environmental performance, the report found the fashion industry has improved since 2017, rising from 32 points on the 100 point index to 42 points in 2019.
However, the report also goes on to conclude that, “Despite this improvement, the fashion industry is still far from sustainable.”
With further Pulse Index analysis, many companies put to the test have failed to reach even the first level in the steps required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, or those of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Needless to say, companies have to push harder with greater focus and strategic prowess to overcome political, economic, social, and technological limitations to achieving a sustainable fashion industry. It is now more important than ever to create an “economically acceptable business through environmental sustainability”.
Ann Cantrell, assistant professor of fashion business management at the Fashion Institute of Technology, states, “If a company can turn billions of recycled clothes and plastic bottles into material for new clothing that is going to save a lot of money throughout the supply chain and help save the planet.”
“The end of one product lifecycle becomes the beginning of another product lifecycle. Whether it is recycled plastic or other forms of sustainability, the ultimate goal is to divert so much waste,” Cantrell concludes.
This ultimately defines the circular fashion market.
Given that economic sustainability is now intertwined with environmental sustainability, where both proportionately affect each other, choice is not an option anymore.
Since the apparel industry’s most expensive item is the material itself, corporations have both a huge ability and responsibility to turn things around.
And Adidas has hit the ground running, with major fashion brands hesitantly following in suit, and the world’s eyes on them.