Adidas: 100% sustainable cotton by 2018

Sourcing strategy shift is being adopted across the entire company, not just individual brands.

The adidas Group represents many, many different sports footwear, clothing and accessories brands that you will recognize, including adidas, Reebok, TaylorMade and Rockport. The one thing that all these brands will have in common by 2018 is a commitment to sourcing 100 percent of their cotton from sustainable "Better Cotton" sources.

This group-wide goal is discussed at length in the company's 2010 corporate sustainability report. adidas joins other major brands including IKEA, H&M, Marks and Spencer, and Levi's in this commitment, through an effort called the Better Cotton Fast Track Program. Writes adidas CEO Herbert Hainer in the report:

"Rather than individual product teams seeking sustainable cotton, it will simply become a standard across all our apparel. This demonstrates on how a group-level initiative such as the environmental strategy can help drive process and product improvements across all our brands and that is the essence of our strategy: to embed environmental sustainability in every part of our business."

What is "Better Cotton"? The idea is that the cotton is grown with less stress on the environment than usual. And the first thing to know is that it is relatively new: the first harvest of this stuff was only in October 2010, so there is an amount of risk to this commitment -- probably one reason it will take seven years to pull this off. The second thing to know is that it requires a complete rethink of the adidas procurement strategy: because it will be engaging with the cotton ginners directly. adidas also will be helping fund farmer education.

Here are some of adidas' other environmental sustainability goals, which ultimately call for it to "become a zero-emissions company." All of these goals are specific to the 2015 timeframe:

  • Cut relative energy usage by 20 percent
  • Make a total relative cut of 30 percent in carbon emissions by sourcing green energy
  • Reduce paper usage by 50 percent per-employee

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