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How ethical and sustainable is adidas? 

adidas is a poorly rated brand on The Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Ratings & Comparison Tables.

adidas is a fashion, sportswear, shoe and trainer and sports accessory brand, owned by adidas AG. This brand does not receive a passable or adequate Good Shopping Guide score in our Ethical Shoes & Trainers Ratings Table. Although adidas has not yet met our Ethical Benchmark, we hope to see the brand make progress in the future. With some significant changes, adidas could one day apply for Ethical Accreditation.

To see which other brands might be a good alternative for adidas shoes, you can compare ethical brands of shoes and trainers on our Ratings Tables.

What is adidas and who started the brand?

adidas was founded in 1924, by two German brothers. Rudolf and Adi Dassler started a sports shoe factory. Throughout World War II, this factory produced military equipment for the National Socialist Party armies, at times using forced labour. Despite these connections with the Nazis, Adi Dasslet persuaded Jesse Owens to wear adidas sports shoes for his victorious eventing at the 1936 Olympics. After the war, adidas shoes became popular predominately with athletes from the US and with the sporty American public. The brothers eventually fell out, and Rudolf founded Puma.

adidas is now the second largest sportswear brand in the world, after Nike, and is regularly endorsed by athletes and celebrities.

But just how ethical and sustainable is adidas? 

This is a brand that has been embroiled in multiple controversies over Animal Welfare, the use of forced labour from the Uyghur people of China, and a poorly controlled supply chain that endangers the lives of its workers.

In what areas does adidas perform well?

adidas performs well in our Ethical Shoes & Trainers Ratings Table for its Environmental Report. On the adidas Sustainability page, there are various goals, including committing to the Science Based Targets.

adidas also has a thorough Code of Conduct that claims to prohibit underage labour and long hours, and allows union participation. (See adidas’ Code of Conduct here.) A Code of Conduct allows consumer and ethical consumer groups and organisations to hold brands like adidas to account for their suppliers’ and workers’ rights.

Does adidas still use kangaroo leather in its shoes and trainers?

adidas declares that it does not obtain raw materials from any species that is listed as endangered or threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCNRed )’s List. Additionally, regardless of whether the animals were wild or domesticated, their policy forbids using leather made from threatened species. Animal experimentation for new materials or products is not acceptable to adidas. However, numerous animal rights organisations have criticised Adidas for selling kangaroo leather.

This article from PETA suggests that whilst some brands have committed to eradicating the use of kangaroo skin, Adidas has not.

For this, adidas received a low rating for its Animal Welfare record.

adidas and labour exploitation

Despite adidas’s progress in its sustainability efforts, there is still room for improvement. The brand was marked down under our criteria for Human Rights (People).

A coalition of more than 180 human rights organisations is urging retailers and clothing companies to stop supporting the Chinese government’s abuse of human rights by forcing labour from the Uyghur people. adidas AG is one of the companies that coalition members accuse of not doing enough to recognise and end economic ties to Uyghur forced labour.

Over 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minority ethnic groups have been rounded up, imprisoned, tortured, sterilised and forcedly indoctrinated as part of an incarceration campaign launched by China’s Communist Party. This has been called a ‘genocide’ by many activist groups.

Cotton picked by coerced Uyghur people makes up a fifth of the world’s cotton, and adidas is among the brands that use this cotton.

The Tailored Wages 2019 report from the Clean Clothes Campaign examines 32 renowned clothing companies regarding their progress in instituting a living wage for the people who make their clothes. adidas AG was given the lowest grade available in the study because it could not provide any proof that any of its garment workers were paid a living wage anywhere in the globe.

For these instances of Human Rights violations, and multiple more incidents, adidas received a very low rating in our People criteria.

How can adidas brand improve its Ethical Rating?

The Good Shopping Guide score results from multiple ethical criteria in relation to adidas. To reach our minimum Ethical Benchmark and qualify for Ethical Accreditation, adidas has some issues to resolve, including its many violations of workers’ rights, use of kangaroo leather and use of Uyghur labour.

If your shoe or trainers brand values ethics and sustainability, why not check out The Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Accreditation? Increase customer and investor confidence and stand out from the greenwash.

Ethical performance in category


GSG score


GSG category benchmark


Ethical Rating


  • Environmental Report


  • Nuclear Power


  • Sustainable Materials


  • Fossil Fuels



  • Animal Welfare


  • Vegan Options



  • Armaments


  • Code of Conduct


  • Political Donations


  • Ethical Trading Schemes


  • Human Rights


  • Human Rights+



  • Ethical Accreditation


  • Other Criticisms


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