Fair Play: Adidas Reports Progress Across Four Pillars of Sustainability


CSR certainly has severe shortcomings like corporate inaction around sustainability, but companies like Adidas show just how far the movement’s come today. It doesn’t change the concentration of ownership in the hands of a narrowing few, but their CSR is a comprehensive approach across People, Product, Planet, and Partnership. What can the next generation of CSR look like though? If we’re truly going to be seeing worsening impacts of climate change and a rather serious degree of chronic stagnation in our future, CSR itself, at least to be worth praising, will have to even do much more than current leaders like Adidas, Unilver, and others. But what might that look like: solidarity economy supply chains like J&J’s Phoenix Project but more expansive as we see in Brazil perhaps, to start at least.



By Andrew Burger

Germany’s Adidas is a world leader when it comes to footwear and sportswear manufacturing. It’s also a global leader when it comes to corporate social and environmental responsibility.

In 2013, Adidas garnered RobecoSAM SustainabilityGold Class and Sector Leader awards. It has been included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes for 14 consecutive years and was named both industry leader and included among the “Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World” for the tenth time.

Fundamentally, enhancing the overall sustainability of a business enterprise is about corporate culture — about instilling a set of social and environmental values and attitudes that fosters and encourages awareness, innovation and responsibility among employees, suppliers, customers, and in the communities where a company represents itself. Adidas recognizes this.

In its “Sustainability Progress Report 2013,” Adidas takes a new approach to its sustainability reporting, something it’s done since 2000. Aptly adopting the short title “Fair Play,” in it Adidas frames its sustainability goals and reviews both its successes and challenges from within the overarching context of a new approach centered on four pillars, or 4Ps: People, Product, Planet and Partnership.

What makes a good corporate citizen?

In the foreword to its “Sustainability Progress Report 2013,” Adidas Group CEO Herbert Hainer clearly states the ethics underlying the multinational business’s sustainability activities, and its effort to instill a mindset of achieving ongoing progress:

“While we had many successes to celebrate in 2013, we are aware that there is always more that we can do. For us, succeeding in business is about more than making money. It is about treating our employees, our suppliers and their workers fairly, being straight with our partners and supporting our local communities.

“It is about respecting the environment and making the best products we can for our customers. We are not perfect and we do not always get it right. But as we go about our work, we aim to honor the spirit of ‘fair play’ in everything we do. Therefore, let me assure you that we continue to take serious responsibility for our actions. And we continue to integrate sustainability into our business strategy.”


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