Nike Makes Sustainable Strides

The company released its latest Sustainable Business Performance Summary, providing an update on performance against business, labor and environmental goals.

Nike Inc. released its latest Sustainable Business Performance Summary Wednesday, providing an update on performance against current business, labor and environmental goals, as it works toward separating profitable growth from constrained resources.

The report shows Nike is making progress across key impact areas of climate and energy, labor, chemistry, water, waste and community, and noted the challenges that remain.

Evidence of the company’s progress includes a reduction of carbon emissions of close to 3 percent across the whole value chain in fiscal 2012-13 from its fiscal 2011 baseline, while revenues grew 26 percent over the same period. Production also grew while the company fulfilled its strategic aim to source from fewer, better-performing contract factories, with a 14 percent reduction — to 785 factories from 910 — over the last two years.

Some challenges in the industry include the rate at which environmentally preferred materials are becoming available at competitive pricing, and the rate at which the market adopts new green technologies, the company said.

Progress on current goals includes advancement on its CO2-reduction target of 20 percent per unit from 2011 levels through 2015, having reached a 13 percent reduction through the end of 2013, and surpassing targets on water-efficiency goals with contract factories that manufacture footwear. Results included factories using 23 percent less water per unit in 2013 compared with 2011, against a goal of a 15 percent reduction through 2015. The Beaverton, Ore.-based company also focused on using more sustainable materials through innovations such as ColorDry, which eliminates water and process chemicals from material dyeing, and Flyknit technology, which substantially reduces waste, and through industry-government groups such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Launch.

Nike is also pursuing greener chemistries with material suppliers and contracted factories through an agreement with Bluesign Technologies to open up its chemical formulation database, enabling access to 30,000 environmentally better materials. Bluesign works along the supply chain to approve chemicals, processes, materials and products that are safe for the environment, workers and consumers.


“We are constantly integrating more sustainable ways of working across our business,” said Hannah Jones, Nike’s chief sustainability officer and vice president of its Innovation Accelerator. “But we recognize that many issues facing business and society are greater than one brand can solve alone. To achieve systemic change, we must understand risk and embrace innovation as a way to accelerate positive impacts at scale. Collaboration and unconventional partnerships will be critical to our collective ability to design more sustainable business systems.”

Nike began reporting its environmental and social performance in 2001. The latest report is the sixth and was informed by feedback from a panel of external reviewers, including representatives from non-governmental organizations, academia, business and consumer advocates, the company noted.