Adidas is the largest sports retailer in Europe with a portfolio of major brands such as Adidas and Reebok selling shoes, clothing and accessories. The company employs over 59,000 people around the world and generated $26.5 billion in revenue in 2019.
A signatory to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), Adidas has made a high-level, public commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. The company has also established a gender strategy that goes beyond general support for diversity and inclusion to include an organisation-wide commitment to gender representation as well as unconscious bias trainings, mentorship programmes and women’s empowerment in the supply chain. While Adidas has established time-bound targets on gender representation in leadership, it does not disclose other gender-related targets. Moreover, it has not stated which individuals in the company are responsible for its gender efforts. No information was found regarding whether the company engages external stakeholders or its own employees on gender issues, for example by performing surveys, and integrates feedback into its company policies and practices.
Adidas has a gender-responsive grievance mechanism that considers the specific needs of its women employees, for instance allowing concerns to be anonymously reported to someone other than the direct supervisor via a telephone line, as well as ensuring non-retaliation and protection of the aggrieved party. It also ensures that its supply chain workers are aware of the company’s grievance mechanism and allows them and members of the community to access it. In addition, suppliers are required to have their own grievance mechanism in place for their workers to raise concerns, which reflects an understanding of gender roles and the inequalities women face in the supply chain.
The company screens for gender-related issues among its suppliers as part of its audit processes, including sexual harassment, gender-based violence and discrimination against women based on their pregnancy and marital status. It also requires corrective action to be taken if these issues are identified.
There is limited information available to indicate that Adidas considers the fair representation of women in the workplace. With a workforce that is 52% female, women are underrepresented on the company’s board of directors (31%) as well as among senior executives (17%) and senior management (29%). No information was found regarding the gender balance of the company’s middle management, its workforce across occupational function or the gender breakdown of employee turnover or absenteeism rates.
Adidas promotes gender equality in leadership by offering its women employees professional development opportunities through initiatives such as Going for Gold, a management development programme that provides aspiring women leaders with workshops, personal coaching and facilitated support. It also runs the DIVE IN ambassadors’ initiative, which provides management mentoring sessions for women, the #BCONFIDENT female leadership initiative and the Women’s Networking Group. The company has further instituted the Global High Potential Group (GHIPO) and Local High Potential Group (LHIPO) leadership groups to ensure balanced representation in senior positions.
In the supply chain, Adidas has commissioned empowerment projects to support its suppliers in hiring women workers and building their skills through training initiatives, for example via its involvement with the HERproject run by BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) and the Women in Factories programme in China. As part of the company’s wider efforts to empower female workers in our supply chain, they have initiated a Women’s Empowerment Program in Pakistan to train women on how to secure better career opportunities in the workplace. The programme has helped redundant women to obtain new jobs as well as supported women on the job to secure promotions by improving their professional performance.
The company also addresses the systemic discrimination that women face by requiring its suppliers to have a non-discrimination policy that explicitly protects pregnant and married women workers. Further, the company provides extensive guidance to prevent discrimination against pregnant women, including stating that they should be provided with all legal protections and benefits. However, it does not disclose information on whether it requires suppliers to provide training to hiring managers to prevent discrimination.
Adidas reports on its gender pay gap in the United Kingdom, thereby complying with national regulation. While the company does not report on its global gender pay gap, it has developed a monitoring approach to identify potential pay gaps and works to close these gaps on a country-by-country basis. It has also reassessed the benefits offered to employees in Germany and the United States to minimize salary differences of employees on the same positions and grades.
In terms of family-friendly benefits, the company does not have a global policy of providing at least 14 weeks of paid primary carer leave to full-time employees. It does, however, provide 12 weeks of paid primary and secondary carer leave to its employees in the United States. It also offers up to six months of unpaid parental leave to all employees globally and up to three years to Germany-based employees. Furthermore, Adidas offers day-care centres at its headquarters in Germany where employees can also access a programme that has childcare and dependent care options. The company additionally offers all employees flexible working hours and locations.
In the supply chain, Adidas considers the unpaid care burden of workers and makes an explicit reference to primary carer leave for women workers. It states that best practice would be providing three months of maternity leave at the worker’s current wage level. However, as this is part of supplier guidelines, suppliers are not required to follow this practice. There was no information found on whether Adidas requires its suppliers to offer formal contracts. While the company recognises the importance of earning a living wage and seeks out suppliers that offer their employees improved wage systems, benefits and welfare programmes, the company does not require its suppliers to pay more than the minimum legal wage.
No information was found regarding whether Adidas covers additional costs surrounding maternal and mental health services or the sexual and reproductive health needs specific to its women employees.
In the supply chain, Adidas requires suppliers to provide their workers with a safe and healthy work environment, including access to toilets separated by gender, drinking water, adequately lit factory facilities, personal protective equipment and training in proper chemical handling. While the company does not require suppliers to have an on-site clinic with a credentialed health provider, it has established a permanent community clinic focused on the sexual and reproductive health of women workers in Vietnam.
Adidas seeks to prevent violence and harassment through its Fair Play Code of Conduct and asserts that it expects everyone to be treated fairly and without discrimination or harassment. It applies this code equally to all employees and board members. However, no details were found regarding violence and harassment training or the company’s effective remedy for violence and harassment grievances in the workplace, such as not requiring private arbitration or silencing agreements.
In the supply chain, Adidas provides guidelines on the prevention of violence and harassment. These guidelines recommend that factories implement formal, written non-harassment policies defining unlawful sexual harassment and disciplinary actions related to such misconduct. The company does not, however, specifically require its suppliers to have a violence and harassment policy in place.
No publicly available information was found regarding how Adidas addresses non-discriminatory practices in marketing and advertising, for example by committing to avoid harmful gender stereotypes or ensuring gender-responsive communications and engagement with its customers to support gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Limited information was found regarding how Adidas currently drives gender equality and women’s empowerment in the communities where it operates. Besides its involvement with the BSR-run HERproject, the company has established the Women’s Empowerment Program in partnership with the Pakistani NGO Baidarie. The programme aims to provide jobless women with the knowledge and skills to find new employment.
Adidas has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by closing stores to protect its teams and customers. Over 70% of its stores were closed during the height of lockdown in the second quarter of 2020, although the majority were open again as of August 2020. The company has also partnered with the digital manufacturing company Carbon to produce 18,000 3D-printed face shields per week for healthcare workers on the frontlines in the United States as well as distributing 100,000 masks to medical communities around the world.
In terms of philanthropic action, Adidas has donated $3.25 million to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and $1.35 million to the China Youth Development Foundation. It has also implemented store discounts for medical professionals, first responders, nurses and military personnel.