So Adidas is probably one of the most well-known clothing brands globally. When we think of sportswear we think of Adidas, and with the recent ‘athleisure trend’ its gained even more popularity.
Nike, which is a probably Adidas’ biggest competitor is known for being unethical. There are countless stories about them using child labour and environmentally degrading materials, so I was pretty surprised when I found out that Adidas actually isn’t too bad.
The Good on You app (which is one of my favourite apps for ethical shopping!) rates Adidas as ‘Good’, its second best rating. It takes into account labour practices, environmental practices and animal welfare.
In terms of the environmental rating, these are the reasons why they received a good rating:
- They have made a public commitment to reduce their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms by 15% by 2020.
- It is a founding member of the Better Cotton Initiative (which gives brands access to cotton which has been farmed with minimal/no pesticide use, as well as cotton that has been produced with less water).
- It is also a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (an alliance of brands, manufactures, NGOs and others who are worried about the sustainability of the fashion industry, the main focus of the coalition is on building the Higg Index, a standardised supply chain measurement tool)
- It is partially certified by BlueSign (an organisation that partners with brands to establish management systems which improve their products environmental friendliness).
- It traces suppliers to see if they are operating in water-stressed areas and implements water reduction strategies in these locations.
In terms of labour:
- It traces most of its supply chain including all of its final stages.
- It publicly lists some of its suppliers.
- It audits some of its traced facilities over a two year period across parts of its supply chain.
In terms of animal welfare, Adidas got the middle rating ‘It’s a start’:
- They do not use angora, fur or any exotic animal skins of hair.
The Good on You app bases this information of the 2018 Ethical Fashion Report, this report individually scored Adidas A-, where their scoring goes from A+ down to F. So in those terms, it’s done pretty well. Especially as the average grade for the 114 companies was a C+. The report also splits the grading into four categories, of which Adidas scored:
- Policies (eg provisions which prohibit forced labour etc): A+
- Transparency and Traceability: A+
- Auditing and supplier relationships: B
- Worker empowerment: C+
It’s a pretty positive report overall, but by no means perfect. There is still a lot of work to do. Despite all the environmental initiatives Adidas is a part of, they are still producing large quantities of clothing at high speed resulting in environmental degradation. In regards to labour, Adidas has made little effort to make sure their garment workers are receiving a living wage, and they do not have any worker empowerment initiatives across their supply chains. This is essential for a clothing brand to operate in an honestly ethical way. In regards to animals, they use leather which causes significant harm to cows. They also use feathers and wool which in cases can cause harm to animals.
So, Adidas isn’t terrible, but it’s not a truly ethical brand. But the thing is, Adidas is an accessible brand, you can find Adidas almost anywhere, and the brands which are truly ethical are often inaccessible. I know so many times I’ve found a great looking brand but they’re based abroad and there’s no way I can try their products. Ethical brands can also be really expensive, and I know for me personally that often puts them out of my reach.
What am I getting at with this? Well I’m saying that if you need new clothing, eg you need new sportswear, or a new pair of trainers, and you’re struggling because there’s no ethical brands near you, or they’re too expensive, or maybe you just absolutely hate what they have on offer. Adidas is probably one of the best choices you can make. I feel like there’s a tendency within the ethical fashion community to just be either all or nothing. You either only shop second-hand/from ethical stores or you are an unbothered consumer of fast fashion. But I really think there’s something important into looking into the brands that are common, that are on the high street and identifying those which do make some efforts to operate ethically. Sadly, shopping truly ethically can be challenging, and I believe all we can do is our best.
So, Adidas hasn’t got it all sorted. There’s still a lot of work to do, but what’s good is that they are doing work. Although Adidas isn’t going to be the perfect option, it might be the best one sometimes.