Why the sports sector is accelerating its commitment to sustainable development

Sports Business Observatory- If ecology efforts are not yet a criterion for brand selection, and if the brand does not set an example, it can quickly become a criterion for non-selection.

Aurelie Lienhart is a member of the Sports Business Observatory think tank, dealing with social issues and innovation. She is also a partner of In & Sport, and her mission is to provide analysis and decipherment of the evolution of sports, both economically and socially.

Every year, over 100,000 tons of sports and leisure equipment are thrown into the trash. And it’s no wonder that ecology enters this sector under two laws, “Climate and Resilience” (2021) and “AGEC” (2020). The law requires players in this sector to rethink how and behave in their products. Environmental considerations and relationships with consumers who are increasingly aware of the importance of environmental issues. In France, the eco-organization Ecologic was established to build an approach for all companies in the French market. At the same time, players in this sector have seen opportunities for transformation and innovation, whether they are SportTech start-ups or large international groups like Adidas. You do not necessarily have to wait for these legal obligations to be fulfilled.

A sector built in France thanks to the dedicated organization Ecologic

If these two laws were only in France to date, they would apply without identifying the nationality of the companies in the “sports” sector, with a budget of € 100 million per year and very much through the eco-organization Ecologic. Subject to special structuring. One-third of it is devoted to repair funds to promote the reuse of sporting goods and clothing and limit waste. According to ADEME (Environmental and Energy Management Agency), half of the items and equipment discarded by the French can be reused either by repair, spare parts, or recycling. With the support of Union Sport et Cycle (US & C), this new sector is “Extended Producer Responsibility»It aims to organize the collection and reprocessing of waste from this sector and promote circular economy and eco-design. We also aim to double the amount of reused items and recycle the remaining items by 2027. This includes 62% of the cycle and 50% of other products.

When the provisions of the law must be applied from 1er In January 2023, an experiment is already underway with players in this sector. In-store deposits have already been provided for textiles and shoes. For other items that are damaged or intended to be thrown away, the user can drop them into the store or club. Items are categorized by eco-organization service providers, separated if they can lead a new life, categorized into major categories, collected in the form of materials, incinerated or buried as a last resort. The first problem has occurred. Not only are the objects to be classified very diverse, but there are also mixtures of materials and composite materials that make processing more complicated. Initiatives such as the French Tennis Federation, which organizes a collection of balls each year into floor mats, and Albertville’s SCOP Trivalet, which recycles used skis in a crushing process, are already underway.

In this regard, Union Sports & Cycle will award the Ecosports Award 2022 for the third consecutive year at the ceremony on June 28, dedicated to the ecological innovation of sports, cycling and active mobility players. Virgile Caillet (US & C’s General Delegate) rewards eco-design, circular economy, sustainability “sports” companies, the structure and location of practices with environmental innovation, and related sporting events. Is awarded.

Adidas, a global player with a sustainable and innovative approach

If France mobilizes all parties through the structuring of the law and the “sports” sector, the German company Adidas has decided to work on sustainable global reflections to address environmental issues. For their reuse and recycling. “”The approach imposed itself [cette] A global company with global influence and responsibility for social responsibilitySays Mathieu Sidokpohou, Adidas General Manager of Southern Europe.

The company’s goals are clear in 2025. Nine of the ten articles are sustainable, achieving climate neutrality in our activities. Beyond speech, French and German equipment manufacturers advocate concrete elements to uphold beliefs and responsibilities in the fight for environmental defense. The company has already integrated eco-design and redesigned its production process by predicting the entire product life cycle. Rethinking standard materials for integrating recycled natural or low carbon materials, designing products with multiple lifetimes reproduced, carbon trend neutrality.

Manufacturers use up to 90% of this recycled material because their products require polyester. Realizing these efforts requires investment in innovation and cannot rely solely on internal resources. “”To innovate, you need ideas […] And we open the door to the world by partnering not only with new material suppliers, but also with potential competitors to reach our goals.“I’m talking about Adidas’ DG Southern Europe. This is in collaboration with Allbirds, a New Zealand company that specializes in the use of natural materials in the manufacture of shoes and garments. The goal is carbon dioxide emissions. The least is to make shoes that give the best sports performance in running.

At the sector level in this way, environmental issues therefore allow end consumers to “pool” research efforts for more “responsible” practices at the end of the chain. For example, Spinnova manufactures durable fibers based on natural materials (especially wood fiber) for the textile industry.

Players like Adidas, which is evidence that the sector has taken the subject head-on, go beyond the “greening” of their products. The three-striped brand takes advantage of its infamy to engage in actions that mobilize the general public, its ambassadors, representatives, and employees, raising awareness of the key causes of environmental protection. On June 8th, Oceans Day, Adidas and the Pearly for the Oceans Association launched the fifth edition of the “Run for the Oceans” initiative.

This action allows all runners to collect the equivalent of PET bottles on beaches, isolated islands, and beaches every 10 minutes of execution recorded in the partner application to prevent execution. Reach the sea. This year, the challenge has been added with new activities to make it even more comprehensive. Athletes are invited to practice sporting activities on the streets, tennis courts and even soccer fields to contribute to the funding objectives of the plastic waste tragedy. .. Studies show that the Earth has reached a critical threshold, and by 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish. Thanks to this initiative, more than 50 million pairs of shoes, including the plastic Pearly Ocean, will be in 2021 for five years, including 18 million pairs.

For adidas, it’s a matter of not only establishing a position as an action promoter or sponsor, but also becoming an action actor by directly using the results of a collection of products. “”Our purpose is twofold. It is about raising awareness of the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean and motivating people to take action. That’s why adidas has a long-term partnership with Parley, mobilizing not only partners and employees, but also ambassadors such as FC Barcelona’s Pedri and model Karlie Elizabeth.“, Mathieu Sidokpohou claims. The German company also benefits from large competitions like Roland Garros, which offers unique events that allow you to play tennis on the ocean floor. This immersive experience was supported by professional players associated with brands such as Dominic Thiem, Yugogaston, Claraburel and Maria Sakkari … 10K de Paris on Sunday, June 5th, with approximately 30,000 people. It is also an opportunity for people to get together. To promote the purpose of “running for the sea”.

As another example, Adidas and Heptathlon joined forces in 2022 to focus on behaviors that support environmental and social inclusion. Together, the two entities have created a more comprehensive sportsfield from recycled shoes as part of the “Assembly” initiative. To make this multi-sports ground, you need 25,000 pairs of sports shoes. It is mainly popular with women and is often reserved for paid rooms (fitness, dynamic workouts, yoga, stretching, Pilates, dancing, etc.). Fans and top athletes were invited to unload used sneakers at the 330 Decatron Store between February 24th and March 25th. These soles are especially the raw material for flooring or the base for sportsfields.

It is this type of 360 degree approach that allows players to avoid the risk of “greenwashing”. Therefore, the “sports” sector is evolving to meet new challenges from a sustainable development and social perspective. If SportTech start-ups have been driving innovation in the past, key groups in this sector are also responsible for delivering products and actions that meet the expectations of consumers and the general public. If ecology efforts are not yet a criterion for brand selection, they can quickly become criteria for non-selection if the brand does not set an example.