Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted Says Consumers Will Force Fashion Industry to Be More Sustainable

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  • Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted said consumers are looking at the fashion industry with more scrutiny, which will force the industry to change.
  • Speaking at the CNBC Evolve Global Summit, the Adidas CEO discussed its partnership with Allbirds focused around learning how to produce sustainable products at a lower price.
  • The company expects to release its classic Stan Smith shoe in a mushroom-based leather this summer.

Social media has made it easier for consumers to hold companies and CEOs accountable for their actions, and that's a good thing, Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted told CNBC's Sara Eisen at the CNBC Evolve Global Summit.

"I think that the scrutiny on companies and CEOs are much greater today. I think that part of the reason is social media is bringing a transparency and also a news flow out that was never there before," Rorsted said. "It drives change, it drives responsibility, and it drives transparency."

The scrutiny will force the fashion industry, which produces 8% to 10% of global carbon emissions, to become environmentally friendly, Rorsted said.

"This is only the beginning, but the impact plastic has on our global environment is so negative. And as a company that stands for something positive ... we really want to make sure that that problem is tackled," Rorsted said. "It's so fundamental for companies to really help innovate and find solutions that address the environment, not to be disrupted for the future."

Adidas has made strides to create sustainable products, including using ocean plastics in its shoes and vowing to make nine out of every 10 products sustainable by 2025.

"I don't mean this disrespectfully, but European companies — maybe due to regulation — have tended to be ahead," Rorsted said. "We see ourselves as a leader in sustainability, but we actually welcome everybody who has taken a step forward."

The company partnered with Allbirds to create shoes with a low carbon footprint, largely due to the rival shoemaker's success with creating sustainable products at a low cost, which has been a challenge for Adidas. Allbirds uses materials such as merino wool, recycled bottles and cardboard and castor bean oil to manufacture its shoes.

"They've done, been doing a great job on certain elements of innovation. We can bring the footwear expertise into it, which they probably had to a lesser extent," Rorsted said. "Succeeding in sustainability is more important than, you know, competing with each other."

Later this summer, Adidas will be releasing its classic Stan Smith shoe using a leather derived from mycelium, the fibrous root structure of mushrooms. The company anticipates it will be very popular.

"We have done a recent survey; 70% of our consumers prefer to buy sustainable products. So I think there's going to be a great demand for this product," Rorsted said.

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