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Adidas Group Exceeds Sustainable Cotton Target

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Leadership & Transparency
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The Adidas Group made a big announcement this week: In 2014, the company sourced more than 30 percent of its cotton as Better Cotton, exceeding its original 25 percent target. That is the most sustainable cotton used in the company’s history.

The majority of the Better Cotton sourced by Adidas came from India, Pakistan and Brazil. The company will provide more information about its progress in its 2014 Sustainability Report, scheduled for release in April.

Adidas has set a goal to purchase 100 percent of the cotton it uses from sustainable sources by 2018. It aims to use 40 percent Better Cotton by 2015. The athletic wear brand’s goals on cotton are part of its overarching sustainability strategy, which includes a low-waste initiative.

Why is Adidas’ announcement so important? The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) serves as a way for companies to work with the cotton sector to create a more sustainable system. BCI’s Better Cotton Standard System includes a traceability system, and farmers in 19 countries are using it to produce Better Cotton.

“At the Adidas Group, we are constantly trying to increase the use of more sustainable materials for our products, and Better Cotton is a clear success story for us,” said John McNamara, Adidas Group SVP of sourcing. “As a founding member of the Better Cotton Initiative, we firmly believe that Better Cotton is well on its way to becoming a sustainable mainstream commodity. We will continue to increase the amount of sustainable cotton we use over the coming years.”

Back in 2013, the company mentioned the state of the world’s cotton industry in a blog post. Cotton farmers harvest 100 million tons of cotton annually, and all that cotton farming can cause pollution: About 10 percent of all pesticides used globally are used by cotton farmers. The defoliants used by cotton farmers are particularly potent. I can barely stand to be near the cotton farms in my native San Joaquin Valley of California when farmers defoliate in the fall. I can’t breathe through my nose, and my head hurts.

Environmental problems are not the only ones plaguing the cotton sector. There are also labor violations in some countries. Uzbekistan stands as perhaps the worst example, where the government forces adults to pick cotton, according to Cotton Campaign. Uzbekistan is one of the world’s largest cotton exporters. The profits of the cotton industry support only the government and not the people who grow or pick the cotton. The situation in Uzbekistan is a unique one in the world. Although Uzbekistan cotton farmers and workers can’t presently benefit from the BCI, the organization states that it “welcomes” the day when they will be able to benefit from its methodologies that include human rights. And companies like Adidas help make that day possible.

Image credit: Martin LaBar

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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