In my last blog post, I mentioned Unilever’s efforts to combat stereotypes and show support for gender equality and female empowerment as part of their Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). What I didn’t talk about was the other bulk of the plan, which focuses on making their global supply chain more sustainable. In 2010, new CEO, Paul Polman, launched the Unilever sustainable living plan, which was driven by the idea that sustainable growth is the only acceptable business model. By reducing environmental footprint and increasing positive social impact, Unilever believes that it is investing in current and future consumers and society as a whole, thus providing long-term benefit for shareholders.
Many brands from Toms to Tesla to Brita are working to reduce manufacturing waste and produce environmentally friendly products, and some are going as far as taking the waste already out in the world and turning it into something useful, environmentally friendly, even profitable. But would you ever think that something fitting that description would be desired if not pursued? German footwear brand Adidas certainly believed so, and this past November, they presented it to the world.
Overall, Adidas has been making many changes to their operations to reduce waste and promote sustainability. Last year, Adidas eliminated plastic bags in their stores and has reportedly reduced plastic bag use by over 70 million. They’ve been experimenting with sustainable production, material sourcing, and sustainable technologies as well as cutting per-employee water usage.
However, in November 2016, Adidas unveiled something completely different. The brand released its first soccer jerseys and running shoes mass produced with plastic found in the oceans. In the past, Adidas has launched various limited runs of shoe styles made using recycled polyester and sustainable cotton, but Adidas’ plan to repurpose plastic waste polluting Earth’s oceans caught consumers’ attention.
This May, the German footwear brand will begin selling 3 new versions of its popular Ultraboost style, made with the recycled materials. On average, the shoes reuse 11 plastic bottles per pair and feature laces, heel lining and sock liner covers that are made from recycled materials. Even the mid-soles will be 3D printed from repurposed plastic. The shoes will sell for $200 a pair, which is a high price for sneakers but a small price to pay for saving our oceans. Right?
Adidas hopes to produce and sell 1 million pairs of UltraBoost sneakers using ocean plastic this year. That would be $200 million in revenue. Maybe being green brings in the green?
A few more questions for you to consider:
If one of your favorite brands produced a popular product made with sustainable materials, would you be willing to pay a premium on their normal price for that product?
And in general,
Would you pay a premium price for a product from a sustainable or environmentally friendly company? Think Volvo vs. Tesla or Keds vs. Toms.