Nike innovates its way to zero toxic discharges

Nike (NYSE: NKE) has a very successful, world-wide, hard-won and decades-old reputation for its athletic shoes, apparel and equipment. As a brand, Nike is often associated with top sports stars, its ubiquitous “swoosh” logo and the infectious “Just Do It” slogan.  

So it isn’t too great a surprise that the Oregon-based retail giant is continuing the tradition of “going big or going home” when it comes to going green, including such bold goals as the elimination of hazardous discharges throughout its supply chain. Nike’s newly released sustainability report highlights how it is pushing innovation in both its products and supply chain. And considering Nike’s global scope, those changes could have a lasting and worldwide impact.

Nike president and CEO Mike Parker points to the constantly morphing and increasingly globalized market that has fueled the need for innovative approaches to better business performance. “The age of abundance is over,” he said in the report’s introduction. “We cannot achieve our bold goals for sustainability simply by delivering incremental improvements.”

The report talks of creating a sustainable supply chain across all Nike brands that is "lean, green, equitable and empowered. We expect this transformation to benefit our business as well as hundreds of thousands of workers worldwide."

Nike’s sustainability strategy is driven by the need to adapt to rapidly changing operating environments. Here are some of the issues the company expects will affect its future business landscape:

  • Competition for natural resources: The increasing scarcity of natural resources “affects the cost and availability of the inputs needed to make our products,” the report said, “and in turn, the price and availability of the products themselves”
  • Rising energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions: Both factors, Nike says, are pressuring traditional methods of product manufacturing and transportation
  • Global disparities: Major differences in financial access and other opportunities “influence workers throughout our supply chain”
  • Changing demographics: Ongoing urbanization and the emergence of new middle class populations in developing countries “create new demands for products and services, and new opportunities to meet them”
  • A new regulatory landscape: “Emerging regulations related to materials use, labor practices and other issues,” the company notes, “continue to shape our business environment”

Next page: Innovation drives sustainability