The global sportswear company, adidas, has an open policy and process in place to remediate human rights violations within their supply chain. They use a dedicated third-party grievance channel to track and address potential and actual human rights violations effectively. They specifically focus on gender-based violations/issues as well as the accessibility of the information shared around how to access remediation. adidas shares the number and status of cases reported per annum. This aligns with Gender-Responsive Due Diligence (GRDD) Step 6, whereby companies must provide for remediation, as well as GRDD Step 5 due to the open nature in which they share this information.

How is this Gender-Responsive Due Diligence?

adidas has three channels for violations to be reported and remedied across their business – hearing from employees through an employee hotline, hearing from workers through adidas’ worker grievance channels (referenced in their 2014-2018 remedy overview), and hearing from those operating in adidas’s sourcing countries though a grievance mechanism for third parties. This final channel has been in place since 2014 and is the one that adidas provides the most information about. The majority of third party complaints are from trade unions as well as labour and human rights advocacy groups. Of the information online, we can see that adidas’ remediation processes for third parties are gender-responsive because:

  • They are the same for everyone, whatever their gender – ensuring equal outcomes for those whose rights have been violated
  • They are accessible – communicated on their website in multiple languages and reports can be made in any language.
  • Their policy indicates that they cooperate with external complaints mechanisms including those run by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the OECD National Contact Point complaint mechanism.
  • The remediation process for third parties also references how workers can be reporting issues – through a hotline number provided in factories. This number is operated either by adidas’ Social & Environmental Affairs (SEA) department, or in some countries by independent third parties who speak the local languages of the worker populations. This means that the process is accessible and inclusive, respecting language, literacy levels, access to information and digital technology.

 The data provided online about the number of cases handled in the last year (2020) is not disaggregated by sex or type of complaint, making it hard to know the extent to which their process is gender-responsive.

“adidas has three channels for violations to be reported and remedied across their business”


In 2020, adidas handled 22 complaints using its third-party complaint mechanism. Of these, 16 were new, while six were carried over from the previous year. The company resolved ten cases during the year with 12 ongoing. 54% of complaints raised were done so by local NGOs or Trade Unions, while 23% were made by an International NGO or trade union, and 23% made by a Joint Local and international NGO or union. No complaints were raised by individuals.

adidas’ shares some information about the cases raised (see page 6), including the outcome of a complaint raised by a worker in India in 2018 regarding harassment and abuse at a footwear supplier. In response to this adidas:

  • Commissioned an independent third party to conduct off-site investigative interviews which confirmed a range of harassment related issues primarily targeted at women workers.
  • In a 2020 review survey, over 7,500 women workers were surveyed where the majority (81,4%) believed their wages to be “fair” or “very fair”, while only 1.3% stated it was “unfair”. Most of the women (62,6%) also indicated that they were rewarded for good performance.
  • Worked with the supplier through a series of advisory sessions focusing on:
    • Policy review
    • Training and awareness raising for all workers
    • Regular monitoring with senior management
    • Enhancing worker-management communication channels (including the development of a gender responsive non-judicial grievance channel)
    • Recommending a review of the factory’s management systems.
  • A series of workshops were conducted by the expert third party involving workers and management enabling them to raise concerns without fear of retribution, including enhancing effective functioning of an existing internal committee for harassment and abuse. The 2020 survey mentioned above also indicated  that three quarters of the women respondents confirmed they have not experienced or witnessed any harassment or abuse in their factories.
  • Worker interviews have since confirmed no new cases.
  • Following this, the management also put programs in place to increase the percentage of women in supervisory/leadership positions.

“To address [sexual, physical and verbal] issues, we require our suppliers to have in place appropriate policies, procedures and training programs for workers and managers, as well as grievance systems to handle worker complaints. We independently review the effectiveness of these systems and will intervene directly if we see evidence of sexual harassment taking place in our suppliers’ factories.”

Lessons and recommendations to others

There are some important lessons we can take away from the work adidas is doing on remediation:

  • By making grievance and remediation policies and processes open and freely available online, accessibility and corporate accountability are increased, as is the propensity for cases to be reported. However, by only sharing data from third-parties, it is unclear whether the process is working for workers. More information could be shared on this.
  • Another way of increasing accessibility of the reporting mechanism – an important part of being gender-responsive – is to ensure workers can report in their first language and via a process that doesn’t require internet access.
  • By engaging with external complaints mechanisms, organisations can collaborate on remediation when it is needed in locations that multiple company’s source from.
  • There is more that can be done to make the process gender-responsive, including sharing gender disaggregated data about the cases being reported, confirming how workers are informed of the process and that they’re adequately trained and empowered to use it, and knowing that the committee’s reviewing cases reported have an adequate gender split to allow for gender-sensitive investigations.

This case study was written in collaboration with Plan International and Partnering for Social Impact.