09 Dec

How Ethical Is Adidas?

Adidas is the second largest activewear brand in the world after arch-rival Nike. But how ethical is it when it comes to sustainability, labour rights, and animal welfare?

From humble beginnings in 1949 in Bavaria, Germany, founded by Adolf Dassler (the brother of Rudolf Dassler, founder of Puma), Adidas is now a household name. It is known and loved for its iconic Stan Smith sneakers, logo sweaters, tees, and sportswear, worn by athletes all over the world.

But how does Adidas rate on Good On You? How ethical is Adidas?

Environmental Impact

Adidas uses a medium proportion of eco-friendly materials including recycled materials, and 5 years ago, it started partnering with ocean conservation group Parley for the Oceans to produce a range of products made from recycled waste from the sea. Each pair of these Ultraboost trainers is made from 100% recycled material, including 11 plastic bottles! Adidas also uses tanneries that are certified gold or silver by the Leather Working Group and has conducted research with industry bodies on the impact of microplastics.

As part of its Sustainability Strategy, Adidas has established an absolute target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations but it has not set a supply chain target.

Adidas is a step ahead of many other big sportswear brands when it comes to sustainability, which is why we rated its environmental impact ‘Good’.

Labour Conditions

When it comes to labour, Adidas’ rating is ‘It’s A Start’: it received a score of 61-70% in the Fashion Transparency Index, and some of its supply chain is certified by FLA Workplace Code of Conduct including all of the final stage of production.

In more good news, Adidas traces and audits most of its supply chain. The brand publishes a detailed list of suppliers in the final stage of production, some information about the second and first stages of production, and some information about the findings of supplier audits, as well as some information about forced labour, gender equality, or freedom of association. In the spirit of transparency, Adidas publishes detailed information about its supplier policies, audits, and remediation processes. Importantly, the brand also discloses policies to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19.

One area where Adidas has a long way to go is ensuring workers in its supply chain are paid a living wage. The Foul Play report by the Clean Clothes Campaign and Collectif Ethique sur l’Etiquette highlights the difference between the ever increasing amount of money paid on sponsorships to sports stars and other marketing expenses, compared to the reduction of the share of the final price of your sports gear paid to workers in the supply chain. The report calls on Adidas (and Nike) to commit to paying living wages across their supply chains by a specific date and other supporting action. Doing so would really help to boost the brand’s score for people.

Animal Welfare

Adidas’ animal rating is ‘It’s A Start’. It has a general statement about minimising animal suffering but not a formal animal welfare policy. It does not use fur, exotic animal skin, exotic animal hair, or angora, but it is still using leather. Adidas states that it uses wool from non-mulesed sheep and that it traces some animal products to the first stage of production.

Overall Rating: Good

So, how ethical is Adidas? We rate Adidas ‘Good’ based on our own research. Compared to its competitors, including Nike,  Puma, New Balance, Skechers, and Asics, Adidas is miles ahead in terms of sustainability and labour conditions. Note that Good On You ratings consider 100s of issues and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information see our How We Rate page and our FAQs. That being said, Adidas still has a way to go before it can be considered a truly ethical brand. It could start by paying its workers a living wage. After a 6% net sales growth to $23.6 billion last year, this should not be a problem!

While Adidas has shown that it is making progress in terms of sustainability and labour rights, at the end of the day the brand is still very much a part of the fast fashion industry. Producing huge quantities of garments (most of which are not made from sustainable materials) has disastrous effects not only on the environment, but also on workers who often have to work long hours for very little pay in order to reach production targets.

See the rating.

Shop Adidas @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Adidas @ Labell-D.

Shop Adidas Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Adidas.

If you want to shop more in-line with your values, we at Good On You recommend that you support brands that embrace a slow fashion model. Here are a few of our favourite similar brands to Adidas:


Rated: Good
white sneakers by womsh

Fashion and sustainability can go together and Womsh is the brand that proves it. Its shoes are entirely designed and manufactured in Italy, and its clothing range is made from eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton. Find most shoes in EU sizes 35-42, and clothes in XS-2XL.

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Shop Womsh.

Shop Womsh @ COMOVITA.

Shop Womsh @ Curate.


Rated: Good
grey sustainable ecoalf sneakers

Thanks to recycled materials like rescued ocean plastic, Ecoalf creates sustainable fashion with the same quality, design, and technical properties as the best non-recycled ones. Find the range in sizes XS-2XL.

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Shop Ecoalf @ Farfetch.

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Shop Ecoalf.


Rated: Great

Nube turns recycled plastic into responsible and fashionable activewear, designed and made in the US. The brand partners with artists and designers around the world to create prints motivated by the environmental crisis that inspire connection and action. This fully woman-owned business uses a closed-loop manufacturing process by recycling all off-cuts created during the manufacturing process. Find Nube products in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Nube.

Shop Nube @ Curate.

Sage Larock

Rated: Good
woman wearing ethical leggings by sage larock

Made in-house by a small team in LA, sustainable luxury brand Sage Larock produces timeless swimwear and activewear that is sure to turn heads. Its stunning pieces are made from an Italian recycled plastic fabric that is high-quality and long-lasting—and a percentage of profits from each sale goes to support marine conservation non-profits! Sage Larock stocks sizes XS-L.

See the rating.

Shop Sage Larock.

MATE the Label

Rated: Great

MATE the Label creates clean essentials made with GOTS certified organic fabrics and low-impact dyes. Its goal is to offer women everywhere a clean product that is just as beautiful as it is sustainable. It is proudly female-founded and is predominately operated by women. This US brand also manufactures locally to reduce its carbon footprint. Find the range in inclusive sizes XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop MATE the Label.


Rated: Good
white ethical sneakers by veja

Veja is a French brand designing ecological and fair trade footwear, and is also a sustainable fashion pioneer. The brand uses eco-friendly materials, like GOTS certified cotton and vegetable-tanned leather! Veja pays its co-operative cotton growers and rubber tappers between 30% and 100% above the world market price. By not advertising, Veja is able to invest more money into strengthening its ethical practices. You can find Veja shoes in women's EU sizes 35-46, and men's 35-47.

See the rating.

Shop Veja.

Shop Veja @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Veja @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Veja @ Outerknown.

Shop Veja @ Threads 4 Thought.

Shop Veja @ Labell-D.

Shop Veja Kids second hand @ Retykle.

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Editor's note

Feature image via Adidas, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. Use our Directory to search more than 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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