The Influence of adidas on Culture and Climate Policy
By Ann Marie Puente
The New York City based cultural insight and marketing agency, Sparks & Honey, released a June 2015 Fashion Foresight report that identified climate change as a “MegaTrend” for life and society (page 34-35). Further, they note that brands should look to the fashion industry for cues to market changes and trends, as the fashion industry is “highly responsive to cultural shifts” (page 50). Thus, it could be argued that apparel and footwear companies actively participate in shaping climate policy through cultural influence. As Sparks & Honey highlighted, the focus on climate change means companies (particularly in the fashion market) are looking aggressively for ways to be resilient to the forthcoming disruptions in business operations including supply chains and even existing business models.
For six months in 2014, I worked with the adidas Sustainability team at the headquarters in Herzogenaruch, Germany. Although housed within the marketing operations side of the company, the team was much more than a marketing branch. The team is currently led by a former international economic development professional with two professional degrees (business and sustainability), and the staff includes a former financial analyst with a Masters degree in sustainable business management and a life cycle analysis professional from Duke University’s recognized environmental management Master’s program. Strong in business model development, the adidas Sustainability team is truly committed to ensuring sustainability is embedded into integral business operations at adidas.
The most visible manner for apparel and footwear companies to ensure climate resiliency is in their investment in material innovation. The most recent sustainable material innovation at adidas is their collaboration with Parlay for the Oceans (Parlay). On June 30, 2015, adidas Board Member, Eric Liedtke, spoke at the United Nations regarding the adidas and Parlay partnership in creating the world’s first shoe upper made entirely of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from ocean waste and illegal deep-sea gillnets. These efforts in material innovation are important and help bring awareness to issues customers feel are far removed from their lives. Highlighting issues in a tactile manner and in a visually pleasing form through innovative design is an essential element to bridge culture and climate change issues.
As apparel and footwear companies have the ability to intimately connect with customers and fans, their role in shaping climate policy is noteworthy. When lifestyle brands like adidas innovate their materials and manufacturing processes with a nod to design, these actions can ultimately change the cultural perceptions of athletic wear and the buying habits of customers. Material innovation can also be seen as a stepping stone to business model innovation—creating business models that are inspired more by the sharing economy than the throw away economic model. Although such models need to be tested for their financial viability and legal concerns, brands that are ahead of the curve in adopting them will win as cultural shapers and key players in climate policy.
Ann Marie Puente is a 2015 Design Management graduate with a background in law and political science. Prior to studying design in New York City, she worked in Miami and Washington D.C. as a litigation attorney. Additionally, she has worked on economic development issues in Washington, D.C. and Florida and on various political campaigns in Florida and New Mexico, including voter protection for the 2008 Obama Campaign. She is committed to socially conscious initiatives in both the private and public sectors, with a special interest in the creative economies as a driver for social innovation via policy, law and strategic partnerships.