As of May 2015, Nike had approximately 62,600 employees worldwide. The company is supplied by over 140 footwear factories and over 400 apparel factories around the globe, many of them located in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia.
Nike on sustainability
“Sustainable innovation is a catalyst for revolutionising the way we do business and an opportunity that’s been integrated across our business in policies, processes and products. We are innovating solutions that benefit athletes, the company and the world.”
About the project
In practice, sports apparel and footwear production is rarely managed directly by brand owners, but is contracted out to supplier factories, many of whom further sub-contract the work to other factories and to home-workers. By the early 1990s, it became clear that the rights of many contracted workers were not adequately protected by the state nor by the contract factory. Nike, as one of the biggest brands in the business, drew heavy criticism for contracting to factories which allegedly violated minimum wage and overtime laws and used child labour.
Nike drafted its first code of conduct for contract labour in 1991 and distributed it to factories the next year, making it the first code of its kind for the sporting apparel industry. All contract factories were required to sign the document, which banned the use of forced or child labour and committed them to compliance with local laws on wages, benefits, overtime and environmental protection. The code was later amended to include the right to free association and collective bargaining.
In 2005, Nike became the first company to publicly release supplier details of Nike branded products. In addition, they developed a long-term sustainability goal, their North Star. Today, sustainability, performance and innovation are an integrated part of Nike’s organisation.
The Natural Step’s work
In 1998, The Natural Step began to work with Nike to help the company apply the sustainability principles to its business operations. The company formalised its commitment to sustainable commerce with an official policy statement later that year. Between 1998 and 2001, hundreds of Nike employees were trained to use The Natural Step’s Framework, leading to numerous innovative programmes to further develop its sustainability goals.
In 2008, Nike partnered again with The Natural Step to help assess and further develop its approach to product innovation by defining a long-term vision for sustainable products. The resulting North Star vision and innovation goals position Nike to become a leader in sustainable product innovation and navigate toward a sustainable future.
Nike’s North star innovation goals
Closing the Loop
Athletes as Change Agents
- Nike’s “Reuse-A-Shoe programme” grinds used athletic shoes and uses the recycled materials in surfaces for basketball courts, athletic tracks, artificial football pitches, playground fall protection and other recycled products. It has kept millions of post-consumer and defective shoes out of landfills.
- Nike’s “Considered shoe line” marked a shift in the way sustainability was addressed. It is best described as a design ethos that focuses on creating products made with fewer toxins, less waste, more environmentally preferred materials and sustainable product innovation.
- The Nike “Considered Index” was developed in order to better evaluate the environmental footprint of all Nike products and develop incentives for change amongst the design teams. It uses a lifecycle approach to examine design and production factors. Considered products are rated as gold, silver or bronze.
- Prominent athletes, such as Steve Nash and Michael Jordan, have promoted gold-standard shoes, adding star power to the Considered line. The Steve Nash “Trash Talk” shoe was among the first sports performance shoes to be rated gold under the Considered Index. It is made from manufacturing waste.
Shaping the future
- Manufacturing waste in the shoe “Trash Talk” 100% 100%
- Reduction of harmful chemicals in Nike’s environmental rubber formula 97% 97%
- Reduction of total solvent use between 1995 – 2003 95% 95%
- Glue or chemicals in the PreeCool vest 0% 0%
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