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Adidas responds to accusations that sports shoes contribute to 'deforestation and modern slavery'

By Susan Zijp


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Adidas Spezial LG2 SPZL shoe. Credits: Adidas

German sportswear manufacturer Adidas is allegedly contributing to the exploitation of workers and destruction of the Amazon with the production of its sports shoes, according to a report by the investigative journalism platform Follow the Money. The media platform claimed that the leather of the Gazelle and Spezial trainers came from Brazilian meat producers involved in deforestation of the Amazon. Workers in Brazil are also said to work under unethical conditions, considered 'modern slavery'. Adidas has responded to the allegations regarding its production chain in a statement to FashionUnited.

Stefan Pursche, spokesman for the company, rejected the claims, commenting: "We reject the allegations. Adidas has established mandatory standards for sourcing raw materials for leather products in terms of animal welfare and environmental protection for all suppliers worldwide. The company has been a member of the Leather Working Group since 2006. This non-profit organisation defines standards for the environmentally responsible production of leather at all stages of processing and sets standards for the traceability of raw materials. Currently, more than 99 percent of our amount of leather is controlled in accordance with the Leather Working Group (LWG) protocol, and most of our hides come from tanneries with the highest LWG rating (LWG Gold)."

Pursche further stressed that Adidas carries out regular checks. Should any unethical practices occur, they are addressed. He continued: "Adidas is committed to fair labour practices, fair wages and safe working conditions in its global supply chain. A team of around 50 experts around the world works every day to ensure that our labour standards are applied and complied with. By 2022, Adidas has conducted more than 1,200 factory audits of suppliers. If our standards are violated, we have a sanction mechanism that can even lead to termination of the business relationship."

Adidas is a German multinational, a major player in sportswear and sports accessories. The brand uses polyester cotton and leather in its sports shoes. The German brand's production is almost entirely outsourced in faraway countries. Some of the places where Adidas produces clothes include Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Turkey and Pakistan.