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Mary Mazzoni headshot

From Circular Plastic to Vegan Leather: Adidas Plans to Use Sustainable Materials in 60 Percent of Products Next Year

In a press announcement on Monday, Adidas pledged to include sustainable materials, such as recycled polyester and sustainably-grown cotton, in more than 60 percent of the products it sells next year.
By Mary Mazzoni
Adidas sustainable materials

From fully recyclable running shoes to vegan leather made from fungi, Adidas has big plans for 2021. In a press announcement on Monday, the footwear giant pledged to include sustainable materials, such as recycled polyester and sustainably-grown cotton, in more than 60 percent of the products it sells next year. How will it reach this 2021 milestone? Let's take a look inside its materials portfolio to find out. 

New vegan leather alternative drives buzz 

Adidas is no stranger to plant-based leather alternatives, having launched vegan versions of several classic styles in 2020 — including the cult favorite Stan Smith (pictured above). But the company plans to take plant-based material innovation one step further in 2021. 

News that Adidas is developing its own vegan leather quickly generated buzz this week. Made from mycelium, a component of fungus, the biological leather alternative is set to debut in footwear next year, although specifics are slim. 

Adidas recyclable circular shoe sustainable materials
Adidas unveiled the fully recyclable Ultraboost DNA Loop running shoe in 2020, and a wider rollout is planned for 2021. 

Slow but steady progress on circularity 

Adidas has steadily increased its use of recycled materials over the past decade, with more upticks planned for 2021. More than 60 percent of the polyester in its branded footwear and clothing is now recycled, and Adidas is targeting exclusively recycled polyester by 2024.

The company is also looking to support the development of circular production models through research partnerships, including efforts to transform used clothes into a cotton-like material. A fully recyclable version of the Ultraboost shoe, made from a single material without glue, was raffled off in October, and Adidas plans to launch a successor in a larger volume in the spring of next year.

The purchase and development of new recycled materials will be partially funded by a sustainability bond the company issued in September, valued at more than $600 million, which was five times oversubscribed.  

"We have continued to invest in sustainability initiatives during the coronavirus pandemic, and we will significantly expand our range of sustainable products in 2021. To this end, for example, we have worked with our suppliers to create the structures that make it possible to process recycled materials on a large scale," Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted said in a statement. "Not only does our commitment make adidas more sustainable, but it also drives the development of the whole industry."

Adidas Parley for the Oceans
Adidas and Parley for the Oceans collected almost 7,000 tons of plastic last year, which Adidas will use to produce around 17 million pairs of shoes in 2021.

Ocean plastic products prove to be a consumer hit

Adidas already has lofty sustainability ambitions on record, including a brazen objective to "end plastic waste." A five-year partnership with the pollution awareness initiative Parley for the Oceans has slowly inched the company closer. 

Adidas and Parley launched their first shoe made with plastic collected from beaches and coastlines in 2015 and have sold millions since, including 15 million pairs in 2020 alone. The partners collected almost 7,000 tons of plastic last year, the equivalent to around 350 million plastic bottles, which Adidas will use to produce around 17 million pairs of shoes, among other products, in 2021.

Images courtesy of Adidas 

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni