The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Adidas® and Reebok® Sustainable Fashion: But Will They Be Vegan?

Posted on July 25, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

With the recent announcements by both Reebok and Adidas for their biodegradable shoes to be released sometime in 2017-2018, The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) wondered if the shoes would be 100% vegan. Our short answer based on information we received from these companies: We don’t know. Here’s what we’ve learned thus far:

Their new product (still in development) is partially constructed of a synthetic biopolymer, Biosteel®, invented by German company AMSilk®. The fiber is a “nature-based biopolymer” that mimics spider silk protein. It is, according to the company’s website, “100% vegan and biodegradable.”

Read more about it at–made-from-biosteel–fiber/s/88ed218c-68a0-43ba-9ce2-4e87bce30652

In this news release it states that “The Adidas Futurecraft Biofabric prototype shoe features an upper made from 100% Biosteel® fiber…”

We wondered if the rest of the shoe, including the glue, would also be biodegradable and/or vegan. In response to our question we received this email reply from Julia Zellner in Corporate Communications at Adidas in May 2017:

“With our partners, we are actively working on developing materials and processes to help us intercept potential waste and bring it back into the creation loop.
At the moment, the use of biodegradable fibres in our product is at a development stage and the hope is that within the next year we will be in a position to release a product that consumers will be able to purchase.

So far only prototypes have been produced and we cannot confirm details for future products containing 100% biodegradable fibers.

In order for us to label a product as ‘vegan,’ every material used need to be certified so. Currently, we offer a vast number of products for which we do not use animal products or animal by-products. For instance, certain textiles and synthetic leather used by Adidas are animal-free. However, as we want to allow our local suppliers to be able to locally source commodity products (such as glue used in footwear), we do not have a mandate for these products to be certified vegan, as we cannot guarantee local availability of vegan products for all suppliers. Therefore, we do not label our products as vegan even though some may not contain any animal products or animal by-products.”

Does Adidas Have a Coding System for Local Suppliers?

The VRG responded to Julia with another question. We wanted to know if Adidas had a coding system which would permit a consumer to know which local supplier produced a certain shoe component such as the glue. (We know that product coding is practiced by food companies such as Domino® Sugar allowing them to track their foods and know where it was produced. We wondered if shoe companies had a similar system in place.)

If so, someone who purchased an Adidas product could follow up with the local supplier whose materials were used to manufacture their particular pair of shoes in order to determine if their shoes were vegan.

The VRG received a reply from André Mendes, Senior Manager in Sustainability Communications for Adidas in June 2017. He relayed to us:
“This is information that, at the moment, is not possible for us to share. We keep track of our suppliers but the communication mechanisms between supplier and customer are not in place. We would need to know the supplier and exact purchase order and speak directly to the supplier. Even then, the supplier might not keep records of which locally sourced materials were used.”

Adidas Mid-Sole: Biodegradable?
Here is our question to Adidas: Will the sole of your new shoe be biodegradable as well as the Biosteel fabric on its upper part? If not, what will the sole be made of?

André of Adidas replied:
“The material we use for the midsole of the Futurecraft prototype is BOOST. At the moment this technology is not entirely sustainable but, being a prototype, we constantly innovate and are looking into midsole eco-innovations, such as 3D-printed with ocean plastic. We want to innovate in creating new ideas within an energy intense process in order to use the resources in a responsible way. And this is what we have started to achieve with the upper part of this specific shoe.

Nevertheless, the BOOST manufacturing process (at supplier level) is based on renewable resources, in accordance with Adidas and BASF’s guiding principles of using resources responsibly. We create the best for the athlete, while optimizing our environmental impact. We are committed to steadily increasing the use of more sustainable materials in our production, products and stores.”

We again followed up with more questions to André about his response. Here is the Q&A:

Q: Is BOOST a trademarked name for an Adidas product?
A: BOOST is a trademarked Adidas technology that is used in multiple products.

Q: Are there any petrochemicals involved in manufacturing BOOST? If so, approximately what percentage of the midsole is petrochemical?
A: Yes, Boost is made of TPU which is a plastic (all plastics, unless bio-based, are made from oil – petrochemicals).
[VRG Note: TPU is an acronym for thermoplastic polyurethane. Learn more:]

Q: You mentioned ocean plastic as a component of your shoes. Can you provide a general estimate of the percentage of any one pair of shoes that is derived from ocean plastic?
A: The upper of the Parley shoes is made of Parley Ocean PlasticTM, which is plastic diverted from the ocean/collected on shorelines. The percentage varies greatly depending on the shoe.

Q: Will the biodegradable shoe which you’re developing now contain ocean plastic? If so, approximately what percentage of it will consist of ocean plastic?
A: No, it will not contain Parley Ocean PlasticTM.

In March 2017, Reebok announced its Cotton + Corn® initiative which is based on Susterra® a Dupont Tate & Lyle® invention.

Corn glucose-derived 1,3-propanediol is the chemical produced using a genetically engineered microbial catalyst in an industrial fermentation process.
Traditionally, 1,3-propanediol is manufactured from fossil fuels in a procedure that consumes 40% more energy and produces 20% more greenhouse gas emissions than it does to produce it from corn according to a press release by DuPont Tate & Lyle:

At this point in its development, the top of the shoe is derived from cotton and the sole, from corn. Unlike the current Adidas prototype as of this writing, the Reebok shoe appears to be entirely biodegradable.

We asked Reebok’s Head of Corporate Communications Dan Sarro about the Cotton + Corn shoe. He relayed the following:

“I spoke to the person who heads up our Cotton + Corn initiative… The shoes will be available sometime in late 2017. Here is his response to your question [about vegan materials including the glue]:

‘This is still to be determined. Some of our samples have vegetable tanned leather trim pieces – but we’re not sure if the finished product will have those pieces. We should know in the next few months what the final product will be.’”

NOTE: This is a developing story. Stay tuned to this blog for future updates from The VRG about Reebok and Adidas shoes.

And for those looking for vegan running shoes who can’t wait: 

According to the author of this article, he considered glue ingredients before ranking his selections.

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

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For more information on nonleather shoes, see:

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