Until now, the fashion industry as a whole has mostly lagged behind consumers in responding to their growing demand for environmentally responsible, sustainable style.
The sustainable trend has primarily relegated to niche trend brands—Patagonia, Everlane, Rothy’s, Toad & Co, Eileen Fisher—and to narrow product categories within the industry. It has yet to be adopted widely by the mainstream and across the full product spectrum. That surely will change and change fast as Adidas steps out with a bold new initiative to do away with all virgin polyester (i.e., plastic fiber) in its products by 2024.
Adidas ranked No. Three in world sales in the Apparel/Accessories category in Forbes World’s Largest Public Companies list, behind only Christian Dior/LVMH and Nike, just announced that by 2024 it would use only recycled plastics in all its shoes and clothing.
The implications for Adidas and the rest of the fashion industry are profound. Explaining that about 50% of the materials it uses in the over 900 million items it sells are polyester, Eric Liedtke, head of Adidas’ international manufacturers, told the Financial Times, “Our goal is to get rid of the virgin polyester total by 2024.”
Adidas’s decision follows initial success in selling recycled plastic footwear. Its commitment has grown from one million pairs produced in 2017 to 5 million in 2018, and this year a projected 11 million pairs.
“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,” said Gil Steyaert, responsible for world operations, in a company statement.