Kasper Rørsted, CEO of Adidas, is the Muma College of Business Thought Leader Series Speaker on March 31
By Elizabeth L. Brown
TAMPA (March 9, 2022) – Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted’s definition of success is simple — to be the best sports brand in the world and to do it sustainably.
Rorsted, who heads one of the largest athletic wear companies in the world, will be the third speaker in the University of South Florida Muma College of Business Thought Leaders Series.
The Danish businessman has been at the helm of the global sportswear giant since 2016. His presentation is scheduled for March 31 at the Oval Theater in USF’s Marshall Student Center on the Tampa campus.
Rørsted is the third guest of the series, following on the heels of Marc Randolph, the co-founder of Netflix, who spoke in 2019, and Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, who made an appearance in 2018.
The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. To reserve tickets, visit: usf.to/adidas.
The Muma College of Business Thought Leader Series began in 2018 to attract nationally recognized speakers, innovators, idea generators, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and authors in business and industry for informal talks that cover a wide range of topics.
And who is Kasper Rørsted?
Rørsted, 60, has been described as a highly successful and competent leader who is empathic, calm and a strategic thinker.
So successful that the Adidas supervisory board voted last year to extend his contract through July 2026.
In 2018 he won the German Image Award, an honor that praises the top CEO for their performance, management successes and innovative solutions. That was his second time accepting that award, having previously won in 2009 when he was head of consumer goods manufacturer Henkel.
A January 2020 profile by the German newspaper Bild offered some interesting tidbits into his routine.
He travels 170 days a year. He uses two iPhones and one iPad Mini. He wears 10.5-size shoes. At home, he’s the type to remove his sneakers by the door, where he lines them up next to his 30 other pairs. He eats cereal for dinner. His favorite app “365 Dream Days” does countdowns.
In past interviews, he has talked about the importance of driving sustainable products and making it an integral part of the Adidas business plan.
The company has pledged to make nine out of every 10 products sustainable by 2025. The company also plans to reach climate neutrality by 2050, according to its 2020 annual report.
In an interview at the CNBC Evolve Global Summit in June 2021, Rørsted discussed the importance of Adidas taking the lead in sustainability in the retail industry.
“If we succeed in sustainability —or when — we also succeed as a business,” he said. “I do think that it’s important that the industry will and can do this, but somebody’s got to take the lead and we want to be the leader in sustainability.”
Rørsted said for the past seven years, the company has produced products with an increasingly high content of reusable materials and reusable plastic. Other companies execute sustainability through donations.
That is what makes Adidas different.
In 2021, the company released the Stan Smith Mylo, a vegan version of its iconic Stan Smith tennis shoes made from a mushroom-based leather. The mylo material is created from mycelium, the fast-growing fibrous root system of mushrooms that is grown in a controlled lab environment.
When asked what he sees as his lasting legacy as CEO of Adidas, he said he wants to see the end of plastic waste.
“For me, this is one that has such a devastating impact on the entire environment,” he 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 — energy, sport, team — we really want to make sure that that problem is tackled to the utmost.”
Adidas is the largest sportwear manufacturer in Europe and is headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany. The company has 62,285 employees worldwide, with 2,500 retail stores in over 50 countries. The company formerly owned the Reebok brand, and the sale of Reebok to New York-based Authentic Brands closed on March 1.
At USF, the athletics department is in the fourth year of an eight-year partnership deal with Adidas.
Some high-profile Adidas brand ambassadors who wear the iconic three-striped hoodies and sneakers include Beyoncé, Kanye West, and Pharrell Williams.
On the subject of social justice, Rørsted told Footwear News in June 2021 that he believes it’s important to acknowledge differing opinions and embrace a culture of diversity. He also believes the company should stand up and address the issues as they are happening.
“I think we are a learning organization. We don’t get all things right at the same time, you know, but when we get something wrong, I think we need to recognize we’re getting wrong and be fully committed to it,” Rørsted said.
“If you make mistakes, recognize the mistakes and correct them and move forward to make certain that you correct the mistakes,” he said.
Before joining Adidas, Rørsted was the CEO at Henkel from 2008 to 2016. Rørsted started at Henkel in 2005 as the executive vice president for human resources management, procurement, IT, and infrastructure services.
Before that, Rørsted spent more than a decade in leadership and management positions in the IT and computer industry. Rørsted served as a senior vice president and general manager at Hewlett-Packard from 2002 to 2004, and in various management positions at Compaq and Oracle.
Since 2018, Rørsted has served on the board of directors at Nestlé, but the company announced that he is not running for re-election and is stepping down from that role in April.
He was born in Aarhus, Denmark and is a Danish national. He holds a degree in international business studies from the Copenhagen Business College, graduating in 1985. He also completed a series of executive programs at Harvard Business School.