Did someone say Adidas Stan Smith shoes? They’re popular, aren’t they? I remember everyone in high school wore these shoes. They are really stylish and can be paired beautifully with any outfit that you are planning to wear. BUT! Before you add one to your cart, you should consider the sustainability of these shoes. Not only that but also these shoes are EXPENSIVE! Are you sure you are willing to spend big money on these shoes just for style and possibly contributing to more climate change? Let me tell you what I think and we can decide together!
These Stan Smith shoes are made with recycled polyester, which is part of Adidas’ commitment to only use recycled polyester by 2024. In addition to recycled polyester, the shoes are also made with the following materials: rubber waste, Primegreen, 50% recycled content, and no virgin polyester is included.
At first, I was curious about the Primegreen material that Adidas uses. I have never heard of Primegreen before so I did some research about this and I found that it is a recycled polyester material that is developed by Adidas themselves! Adidas planned on launching both Primegreen and Primeblue by 2020 in order to meet their goal of using completely recycled polyester by 2024. Both Primegreen and Primeblue are fabrics that contain no virgin plastic and no virgin polyester. The two materials sound great but there is no clarification on virgin plastic and virgin polyester which can cause confusion among people that are not familiar with these terms. To foster a better understanding of why Primegreen and Primeblue works, it is better to use explanations that everyone understands.
Although Primegreen and Primeblue are considered sustainable by Adidas, it is still a relatively new material so there could be side effects that we don’t know about. Additionally, these materials are only used and developed by Adidas with a company called Parley Ocean Plastics, which sources its plastic from ocean waste. Adidas’ collaboration with Parley Ocean Plastics allows them to use the plastic waste from the ocean and help mitigate ocean pollution. Even though recycling materials saves energy, we do not have information for potential environmental costs that occurs from the production of Primegreen and Primeblue. I do understand that these are newly developed materials that Adidas is using so I am expecting more information about them in the future.
The Stan Smith shoe is one of the first shoes that was made with Primegreen material. Primegreen is made in collaboration with Parley Ocean Plastic, which is a company that focuses on reducing plastic waste in the ocean. Looking into their website, it is packed with images of ocean pollution and the website calls for people to redesign the plastic that they use. I did more research on the methods that Adidas and Parley Ocean Plastic used to make Primegreen and I did not receive much information about it. All I know so far is that Primegreen is made from recycled plastic waste, which is sustainable in my opinion. Primegreen also does not contain any virgin plastic, which is plastic directly produced from crude oil or natural gas. Both crude oil and natural gas are nonrenewable sources, so it is great that Primegreen does not contain plastic that comes from these resources.
In terms of the production of the shoe itself, I discovered that Adidas uses a speed factory to manufacture their shoes. Speed factories concentrate all the shoe production stages into one area which is more efficient and sustainable than using several different factories dedicated to producing different parts of the shoe. One thing to note is that it is extremely expensive to build speed factories because it finishes production quicker than traditional factories. Adidas relied on speed factories for a while because their intention was to replace cheap labor from Asia with these speed factories. However, I could not find information about the type of technologies that Adidas uses and if the machines in the factories are eco-friendly. Adidas does have an intention to move towards sustainability and even switched from using cheap labor to maintaining expensive speed factories to achieve their environmental goals. It will be even better if more information was given about the speed factories that Adidas uses!
To move away from using cheap human labor from Asia, Adidas paid for speed factories that use automated robots to produce their shoes. Adidas collaborated with Siemens to design an automated robot that can work with soft fabric and used built-in QR codes to keep track of all of the robots in the factory. This is a fairly new way of approaching shoe production and Adidas is at the lead for these types of robots. In terms of labor practices, Adidas has shifted away from exploiting cheap labor and that is considered sustainable in my opinion.
Also, around 2019, Adidas announced that they will be shutting down the speed factories in Germany but did not disclose any information about why they are shutting it down and why they are moving their speed factory technology to Asia. The spokesperson did say that “ It makes more sense to concentrate the production of the Speed factories where the know-how and the suppliers are located’” (Crowe, TheRobotReport) since most of Adidas’ suppliers are located in Asia. Once again, we don’t know much about the speed factories themselves and whether the workers automating the robots are working in a safe environment. I definitely suggest providing more information about the use of robots and the speed factories and disclose information about the workers tending to these automated robots.