Adidas is developing plant-based leather that will be used to make shoes, its latest sustainability initiative after producing 15 million pairs of recycled plastic sneakers in 2020

January 24, 2021
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Adidas is going plant-based.

The athletic-wear company announced on Monday that it’s working on a new material, a plant-based leather that will be used to make shoes. The leather alternative is made from mycelium, which is part of a fungus.

Adidas said it is working on the plant-based leather with partners, but did not announce when shoes made with the material would join its lineup.

The company began offering a vegan version of one of its most popular shoes, the Stan Smith, in 2020, and has committed to banning fur from its products.

The new material is one of several sustainability initiatives for Adidas, which has stated a goal to end plastic waste. Adidas revealed that in 2020, it produced 15 million pairs of shoes made from recycled plastic waste and said its goal is to produce 17 million pairs next year.

The plastic used in the shoes was collected from beaches and coastal regions, Adidas said.

Adidas added sneakers made of recycled plastic to its lineup in 2017 when it unveiled “Parley” versions of its popular Ultraboost running shoes. The shoes contain thread made from ocean plastic waste, which is incorporated into the laces, heel webbing, heel lining, and sock liner covers.

Beyond upcycled plastic, Adidas has started developing a new recycled cotton material and is already using recycled polyester in its product lineup — the company announced Monday that more than 60% of its product range will contain the material beginning in 2021.

Sustainability has been an emerging trend in the footwear industry for several years, with Adidas and sneaker upstarts like Allbirds leading the charge (the two companies are even collaborating on a low-carbon-footprint shoe together). More recently, companies like Everlane and Nike have also begun manufacturing their own more sustainable footwear.

The trend is driven by sneakers’ popularity, particularly in the US, where they’re often seen as a status symbol. As Business Insider’s Dennis Green reported in 2019, greener footwear is likely to make a bigger impression with customers than other types of apparel.

Plus, as Eric Liedtke, Adidas’ executive board member and brand head, told Business Insider last year, making sneakers more sustainable is a logical place to start given the complex nature of the manufacturing process.

“Footwear — it’s the greatest challenge, if you will,” Liedtke said. “You’ve got to take on the greatest challenge first and set the edge, or set the point on, bringing it to the rest of your product offering.”

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