Why the sports sector is accelerating its commitment to sustainable development

SPORT BUSINESS OBSERVATORY – If ecological commitment has not yet become a criterion of choice for a brand, it can quickly become a criterion of non-choice if the brand does not set an example.

Aurélie Lienhart is a member of the Think Tank of the Sport Business Observatory where she discusses social issues and change. He is also a partner of the firm In & Sport whose vocation is to provide analyzes and decryption on the evolution of sport, both in its economic and social dimensions.

Every year, more than 100,000 tons of sports and leisure items end up in the trash. And ecology naturally invites itself into this sector through two laws passed, “Climate and Stability” – 2021 and “AGEC” – 2020, which require players in this sector to rethink their ways of investing in their products, their actions in favor of the environment and their relationship with consumers who are increasingly aware of the importance of environmental issues. In France, an eco-organization, Ecologic, has been set up to structure the strategy of all companies present in the French market. At the same time, players in this sector have seen opportunities to innovate and change, whether you are a SportTech start-up or a large international group like Adidas. Without having to wait for these legal obligations to be done.

A sector organized in France thanks to a dedicated body, Ecologic

If these two laws are French only to date, they apply without recognition of the nationality of the companies present in the “Sport” sector and the subject of a particular structure by the eco-organization Ecologic with budget of 100 million euros per year, a third of which is devoted to a renovation fund to encourage reuse and limit the waste of sports equipment and clothing. Because according to ADEME-the environmental and energy management agency-half of the objects and equipment discarded by the French can be reused, either through repairs, or in spare parts, or through recycling. Under the aegis of Union Sport et Cycle (US&C), this new sector is “expanded producer responsibility»Aims to organize the collection and reprocessing of waste from this sector and promote the circular economy and eco-design. And it aims to double the amount of reuse by 2027 and recycle the rest, including 62% for cycles and 50% for other products.

If the provisions of the law shall apply from 1eh January 2023, experiments on players in the sector are already being conducted. For fabrics and shoes, an in-store deposit is already offered; for other items that are damaged or meant to be discarded, users can drop them off at stores or at their clubs. Items will be sorted according to the eco-organization service providers, separated if they can have new life, separated into main categories and recovered in the form of material, burned or buried as a last resort. The first difficulties arose: very diverse objects to classify, but also the mixture of materials and the presence of composites that makes processing more complicated. Initiatives have already been implemented, such as the French Tennis Federation, which organizes the collection of balls each year, makes floor mats, or the SCOP Tri-vallées in Albertville, which recycles used skis by of the grinding process.

It is in this context that Union Sport & Cycle is honoring the Ecosport Awards 2022 for the third consecutive year, in a ceremony on June 28, dedicated to the ecological transformation of athletes in sport, cycling and active mobility. Virgile Caillet (General Delegate of the US&C) noted that five prizes will be awarded there to reward eco-design, the circular economy, the sustainability-focused “sport” company, the environmentally changing structures and training areas and the sporting event involved. .

Adidas, a global player committed to a sustainable and innovative approach

If France mobilizes all actors through laws and the structure of the “Sport” sector, the German firm Adidas has decided to engage in a sustainable and global reflection to address environmental challenges, and this by changing from product design and reflection on materials to their reuse and recycling. “The approach is imposed right on [cette] global company, with global impact and responsible for social responsibilitysaid Mathieu Sidokpohou, General Manager Southern Europe at Adidas.

The company’s goals are clear for 2025: 9 out of 10 articles will be sustainable and the climate neutrality of their own activities will be achieved. Beyond the speech, the Franco-German equipment manufacturer puts in concrete elements to defend its beliefs and its assumption of responsibility in the fight for environmental protection. The company has streamlined its production processes by combining eco-design and reliance on the entire product life cycle: rethinking standard materials to include recycled, natural or low -carbon materials, designing products to recreate and have a lot of life, towards carbon neutrality.

For its polyester needs in its products, the manufacturer uses up to 90% of this recycled material. Investing in innovation is a necessity to meet these promises and cannot rely on internal resources alone. “To innovate, you need ideas […] and we will open up to the world by partnering not only with suppliers for new materials but also with companies that can be competitors to achieve our goals“, explains DG South Europe of Adidas. This is the case of a partnership with the New Zealand company Allbirds, which specializes in the use of natural materials for the manufacture of shoes and clothing. The goal is to create shoes with lowest carbon footprint and highest sports performance for running.

So placed at the sector level, the environmental issue therefore makes it possible to “pool” research efforts so that, at the end of the chain, the final consumer will have a more “responsible” practice. For example, the company Spinnova produces durable textile fibers based on natural materials (especially from wood fiber) intended for the textile industry.

Proof that the sector has taken the subject, players like Adidas have gone beyond “greening” their products. The 3 -striped brand also uses its popularity to engage in actions that mobilize the general public, its ambassadors and representatives as well as its employees, and to raise awareness of key causes in favor of environmental protection. . On Oceans Day on June 8, adidas and the Parley for The Oceans association launched the fifth edition of the “Run for the Oceans” initiative.

This operation allows any runner, for every 10 minutes of running recorded in the application partners, to collect the equivalent of a plastic bottle on beaches, separate islands and coasts to prevent it from running. reach the oceans. New activities have been added to this year’s challenge to make it more inclusive: athletes are invited to practice a sporting activity on the streets, on tennis courts or even on football pitches to contribute to goals. in fundraising on the plague of plastic waste. Because studies show that the planet has reached a critical limit and that, if we do nothing, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Because of this initiative, more than 50 million pairs of shoes containing Parley Ocean plastic were produced in 5 years, including 18 million pairs in 2021.

For Adidas, it is not just a question of positioning oneself as a promoter or sponsor of an action but of being an actor in it, by directly using the results of the collections in their products. “Our goal is twofold: to raise awareness on the problem of plastic pollution of the oceans and to encourage people to take action. And that’s why Adidas has made a long -term commitment to working with Parley and mobilized its partners, its employees as well as its ambassadors like Pedri from FC Barcelona or the model, Karlie Kloss“, Said Mathieu Sidokpohou. The German firm also benefits from large competitions such as Roland-Garros where it offers a unique event that allows tennis to be played on land under the ocean. This immersed experience is supported by professional players linked to the brand such as Dominic Thiem, Hugo Gaston, Clara Burel, Maria Sakkari … The 10K de Paris that will take place on Sunday June 5, bringing together nearly 30,000 people, is also an opportunity to put forward the “Run for the oceans” cause.

Another example, Adidas and Decathlon joined forces in 2022 to focus on actions that favor the environment and social inclusion. Together, the two entities have created a more inclusive field of sports, from recycled shoes, as part of the “Collectives” initiative. 25,000 pairs of sports shoes are needed to make it a multi-sport ground, around the skills most popular with women and all too often reserved for paid rooms (fitness, dynamic workouts, yoga, stretching, pilates , dance, etc.). Fans and top athletes are invited to drop off their used sneakers at the 330 Decathlon store between Feb. 24 and March 25. The soles of these will dramatically be the raw material of the floor, or the base. of the field of sports.

With this kind of 360-degree approach players can avoid the risk of “green-washing”. The “Sport” sector is therefore evolving to respond to new challenges in terms of sustainable development as well as society. If until now innovations were instead promoted by SportTech start-ups, key groups in this sector have also taken on their responsibilities to offer products and actions more in line with expectations. of consumers and the general public. Because if ecological commitment has not yet become a criterion of choice for a brand, it can quickly become a criterion of non-choice if the brand does not set an example.

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