Adidas creates shoes made from ocean plastics

Image courtesy: Adidas

This post first appeared on Benojo on August 10, 2015. Image courtesy of adidas.

In June, adidas and Parley for the Oceans, an organisation that brings creators, thinkers and leaders together to collaborate on projects to raise awareness on the state of the oceans, unveiled a shoe with an upper made entirely of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from ocean waste. The concept shoes offered a glimpse into the future with adidas and Parley for the Oceans set to reveal a line of consumer-ready ocean plastic products next year.

We spoke to Silvia Raccagni, adidas Group Senior Manager of Sustainability Communication, to learn more about how adidas is making sustainability an ongoing and growing part of their business.

Products made out of ocean plastic

“The shoes we showed in New York are concept shoes only – there are only two pairs in existence. We are currently looking into developing a consumer ready range for the start of next year,” says Raccagni of the concept shoes, which were a world-first.

“In general, our collaboration with Parley for the Oceans will – among many others – accelerate the creation of innovative products and the integration of materials made from Ocean Plastic waste into the product offer of the adidas brand. Starting with limited collections to raise awareness, the intention is to gradually move in line, to fully integrate materials made of Ocean Plastic waste into our regular ranges and to really push the needle.”

Sustainability a key long-term strategy

The Parley for the Oceans partnership is not a stand-alone initiative. Raccagni says: Purely from a product perspective, it builds on our already strong track record in product sustainability, one of the key pillars of our sustainability strategy, which, she explains, is delivered through:

  • Innovation: For example, reducing the amount of water used in the making of our products thanks to initiatives such as DryDye [a new way to dye clothing that doesn’t use any water and saves on energy]. Since we started, we have saved 100 million litres of water in the dyeing process.
  • Increased use of sustainable materials: 2014 was a record year for our use of sustainable cotton. [Note: More than 30 per cent of all of cotton sourced by the adidas Group in 2014 was sustainable cotton. The original target was 25 per cent; in 2015 it is 40 per cent, with the view that by 2018 all the cotton used will be sustainable].
  • Efficiencies: Thanks to virtualisation projects, we have been able to produce almost two million fewer samples between 2011 and 2014.

“It’s not only product though as our partnership with Parley for the Oceans allows us to tap into new areas and explore new solutions,“ says Raccagni. “For example, we have already committed to phase out the use of plastic bags in our stores. The phase-out will start in 2016.”

Looking ahead

“The adidas Group’s sustainability strategy is rooted in the Group’s values – performance, passion, integrity and diversity.  We have been working towards sustainability for many years and recognise that the task ahead of us is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Raccagni, noting that the adidas Group has a history of sustainability.

“We are currently in the process of defining our 2020 targets, which will focus around the further evolution of our core social and environmental programmes driving self-governance in our supply chain. In addition, we will strive to accelerate strategic initiatives in the following areas: promoting worker empowerment building on our previous track record, moving our chemical management to the next level, applying human rights due diligence in all business operations as well as minimising the adidas Group’s water footprint.” 

“From a product perspective, we will keep pushing the boundaries to find better ways to create our products and we will therefore continue to look into sustainable manufacturing methods and sustainable materials for the products and innovations that we bring forward. We are also extending post-consumer in-store product take-back,” explains Raccagni.

“A take back programme [where customers donate old shoes to receive a small discount on a purchase of new adidas shoes] is successfully taking place in 60 stores in Brazil, while in 2014 we have also run pilot projects in Spain and the US. We will take the learnings from these projects and explore potential partnerships that bring us closer to closed-loop systems.”

She adds: “We do already have some fabric that can be used for apparel (tees and sweatshirts) and we are now focusing our efforts in making sure the fabric produced meets our standards. This is, of course, a very important phase we need to go through, if the ultimate goal is to gradually integrate this fabric into our inline product offer.”