Adidas Takes Sustainability a Step Further

Why Adidas asked a grad student to help overhaul its energy use

Green Biz, March 5, 2015

Eric Shrago didn’t know anything about distribution centers — much less the intricacies of how they’re powered — when he stepped into adidas Group’s sprawling 2 million-square-foot Spartanburg, S.C., distribution center last summer.

And that was exactly the point.

Adidas sustainability executives were looking for an outside perspective to help identify ways to improve the efficiency of all the motors, belts, sensors and controls that keep the facility up and running, allowing the sports apparel and shoe manufacturer to get its goods ready to ship to the retailers hoping to sell them.

Shrago, a former Goldman Sachs analyst turned graduate student at Columbia University serving as a member of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps (PDF), fit the bill — and he soon learned just how much of an outsider he really was.

“I thought in two hours on Google I’d be able to find an example,” Shrago recalled of his initial research on models for distribution center efficiency. “In two weeks on Google I didn’t find an example.”

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