News and Notes

Adidas Vows to Slash Carbon Footprint, IOC Goes for Carbon Positivity


The vast majority of climate scientists agree that humanity must decarbonize by at least 45 percent by 2030 if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Thus today’s GSB News & Notes has a distinctly 2030 flavor: 

  • Adidas, which has done an admirable job for a large company in making its production processes more environmentally friendly, recently put more pressure on itself to do better. It committed to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2030 versus 2017.

  • The IOC announced this week that the Olympic Games will be “climate positive” by 2030. What might that look like? 



Adidas recently committed itself to reducing its global carbon footprint 30 percent by 2030 versus its 2017 base line. It also said it would end plastic waste from its production processes through innovation and partnerships, without specifying a date.

As the world’s second largest athletic apparel company, adidas has been a big contributor to plastic ocean waste problem, despite a strong, two decade environmental track record. Now, by putting big carbon- and plastic-reduction targets on its back, it hopes to play a big role in the solutions — and to bring along its competitors.

“We’re not just focused on changing how we do business,” adidas’ VP of Brand Strategy James Carnes said in a statement. “We’re dedicated to changing how our industry does business.


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James Carnes (Photo credit: adidas)


While the company made 2017 the baseline year for its “30 percent carbon footprint reduction by 2030” goal, its environmental push started more than 20 years ago.

“Since 1998, we’ve been developing and introducing innovations to end plastic waste,” shared James Carnes in his statement. “We believe that through sport we have the power to change lives, and we are dedicated to creating that change.”

Adidas hit the accelerator on the greening of its production processes in 2012, launching shoe lines with reduced carbon footprints thanks to sustainability-focused partnerships with nonprofit Parley for the Oceans, Stella McCartney and even the U.S. International Space Station.

This year will see adidas launch PRIME BLUE and PRIME GREEN performance fabrics, new sustainable technologies that each feature 100 percent recycled polyester.

  • PRIME BLUE, which contains Parley Ocean Plastic, is now included in some of adidas’ most iconic performance products like Ultraboost 20 as well as in the uniforms of some of the most popular leagues and teams in the world.
  • PRIME GREEN contains no virgin plastic. It will be available later in 2020 and will also be featured in high profile, high performance adidas products.


Both fabrics will play a significant role in helping adidas to achieve a 50 percent total volume of recycled polyester by the end of this year.

Going forward, adidas plans to make good on its “30 By 2030” and zero plastic waste commitments by implementing a “Three Loop Strategy” for developing sustainable products:

  1. Recycled Loop – Made from recycled materials: PRIME BLUE and PRIME GREEN are in this category.
  2. Circular Loop – Made to be remade: Products whose life cycles continue after each use, like the Futurecraft Loop running shoe.
  3. Bionic Loop – Made with nature: adidas’ ambition to create a future where every product can have multiple lives and then return safely to nature. 


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Futurecraft Loop shoe from adidas (Photo credit: adidas)


Adidas of course realizes that 2030 is just around the corner. That’s why the company has set high sustainability targets in the interim:.

2020: As mentioned above, more than 50 percent of all the polyester adidas uses in products will be recycled

2021: adidas will work with key U.S. sports partners (MLS, NHL, USA Volleyball and the Power 5 NCAA conferences) to transition to more sustainable uniforms.

2024: adidas will use only recycled polyester in all of its products.

By 2050, the company pledges to achieve climate neutrality.


GSB’s Take: Kudos to adidas for taking its sustainability leadership to the next level with its commitments to 1) reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2030 (versus 2017) and, 2) end plastic waste in all of its production processes. That the company did not specify a date by which it would make good on promise #2 was an opportunity missed. But this story is just beginning.



The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week announced that the Summer and Winter Olympics will be “Climate Positive” starting with the 2030 Winter Games. This builds upon the efforts of the IOC, in partnership with local  Organizing Committees to ensure that all upcoming Olympics through 2028 are carbon neutral and have a significantly reduced carbon footprint.

“Climate change is a challenge of unprecedented proportions, and it requires an unprecedented response,” said IOC President Thomas Bach in a statement. “Looking ahead, we want to do more than reducing and compensating our own impact. We want to ensure that, in sport, we are at the forefront of the global efforts to address climate change and leave a tangible, positive legacy for the planet.”


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Thomas Bach (Photo credit: IOC)


One way the IOC will do this is by creating an Olympic Forest will be one way in which we will work to achieve this goal. ”


From 2030 onwards, each local Organizing Committee will be required to go beyond the current IOC mandate that says all Games must be carbon neutral.

What does that actually mean? Is a “Climate Positive” Olympics a legit thing? Judge for yourself.

Each local Organizing Committee will be required to:

  • Minimize and offset their direct, as well as indirect, carbon emissions and;
  • Implement lasting zero-carbon solutions for the Olympic Games as well as for after the Olympic Flame is extinguished.

This way, the IOC projects that 2030-and-beyond Olympic Games will become climate positive, meaning that the carbon savings they create will exceed the potential negative carbon impacts of their operations.

These requirements are neither fluffy nor loophole-filled. Rather, they will be transparent and easily measured. They will be codified in the Host Contract – Operational Requirements, which is the contractual commitment between the host city, the National Olympic Committee and the IOC. The IOC will work closely with each Organizing Committee to help with implementation.


A key way future Olympic Games will become climate positive is through the planting of an Olympic Forest in Africa’s Sahel¹ region, starting next year. This is the IOC’s contribution, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), to the Great Green Wall project – Africa’s flagship initiative to combat the effects of desertification.

Led by the African Union, the Great Green Wall brings together more than 20 countries. Its aim is to transform the lives of millions of people by creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes across North Africa, improving food security and helping communities mitigate and adapt to climate change.


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The Great Green Wall will stretch across Sub-Saharan Africa (Credit: National Geographic)


Through the planting of the Olympic Forest, the IOC will support communities across the Sahel region to work towards the sustainable use of forests, rangelands and other natural resources. And the organization hopes its participation will create the momentum for other organizations and athletes join in.


GSB’S Take: The IOC’s move from carbon neutral to carbon positive Olympic Games is of course a, well, positive thing. Good on the IOC and the local organizing committees.

The one thing that rankles is that local organizers are still engaging in greenwashing.

For example Tokyo 2020 will be able to claim carbon neutrality, all while the local organizing committee is being sponsored by three of the biggest financial funders in the world of new coal power plants.

How carbon neutral is that?

It seems to me that the IOC can use its considerable leverage to make sure its future host cities and their organizing committees do not have coal funders as sponsors.


¹ The Sahel Region is the semiarid area of western and north-central Africa extending from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east. It forms a transitional zone between the arid Sahara Desert to the north and the belt of humid savannas to the south.



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