How Nike Plans To Double Its Business With Half The Environmental Impact

Athletic footwear-and-apparel giant Nike Inc. on Wednesday released its FY14/15 sustainability report, detailing the company’s progress on several sustainability targets as well as its goals for FY2020.

We’ve set a moonshot challenge to double our business with half the impact. It’s a bold ambition that’s going to take much more than incremental efficiency — it’s going to take innovation on a scale we’ve never seen before,” said Hannah Jones, Nike’s chief sustainability officer. “It’s a challenge we are setting for ourselves, our collaborators and our partners as we move toward a circular economy future.”

By 2020, the firm, which released an ambitious 2020 revenue goal of $50 billion last year, said it plans to have zero waste from contracted footwear manufacturing sent to landfill or incineration without energy recovery and to source 100 percent of products from contract factories meeting the company’s definition of sustainable.

By the end of FY25, Nike aims to reach 100 percent renewable energy in owned or operated facilities.

Nike said its sustainability efforts have three core goals: minimize its environmental footprint, transform its manufacturing and “unleash human potential.”

After coming under pressure in the past about the practices at their global footwear factories, many athletic companies have introduced or accelerated their efforts in the arena of environmental safety and sustainability. Adidas has received a lot of positive attention for its sustainability initiatives, while Puma has been public about its environmental goals, launching its first program in the early 1990s.

In FY15, Nike said it reduced carbon emissions during a period of continued growth — shipping more than 1 billion units and seeing sales rise 52 percent (from FY11 through FY15), while carbon emissions decreased by 18 percent per unit.

The company said it exceeded its goals for water reduction by improving water efficiency by 18 percent per unit in apparel materials dyeing and finishing and 43 percent per unit in footwear manufacturing, compared to its goal of 15 percent.

At Nike, we believe it is not enough to adapt to what the future may bring — we’re creating the future we want to see through sustainable innovation,” Nike president and CEO Mark Parker said in a release. “Today our teams are advancing ambitious new business models and partnerships that can scale unprecedented change across our business and the industry.”

Nike said it has also worked with fewer and “better” contract factories and lowered the environmental impact of its footwear and apparel product — with 98 percent of new footwear scoring silver or better on the firm’s product sustainability indices and 80 percent of new apparel scoring bronze or better on the indices.

Its contract footwear factories also diverted 92 percent of footwear factory waste from landfill or incineration, according to Nike.

Nike Sustainability infographic
Nike’s sustainability indices.
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