Tools & Open Innovation Solutions for Sustainable Product Innovation

Nike has embarked on a journey in recent years to identify and develop tools that place the power in the hands of those making sustainable choices within the company. The result has been significant growth in the sustainable and environmentally-friendly product assortment in recent years. 

Lorrie Vogel, the General Manager of Considered Design at Nike, shared during the State of Green Business Forum her One Great Idea for how companies can work together, sharing their expertise, to move the ball forward on sustainability. In the process, Nike managed to recycle 82 million plastic bottles into high-performance sportswear.

The company's World Cup jerseys for the 2010 South Africa games, for example, were made of 100 percent recycled polyester, with each jersey taking eight plastic bottles out of landfills. The net result of that one project alone was reusing 13 million plastic bottles, and showed what was possible with Nike's Considered ethos.

The cumulative impacts of Nike Considered are no less impressive. Vogen shared with the audience how Nike has fared on its goals of having 100 percent of its footwear products be Considered by 2011.

"From our vision, we smashed our target: we ended up where 98 percent of all our new product is going to be Considered," Vogel said. "We've reduced waste by 19 percent across the board within footwear. We've increased our use of environmentally preferred materials by 20 percent. And we have maintained our reductions in VOCs: 95 percent as a company."

That amount of waste reduction is the equivalent of simply not producing 15 million pairs of shoes. And Nike's overall use of recycled polyester, like for the World Cup jersey, doubled between 2009 and 2010, and has now taken 82 million plastic bottles out of landfills and back into the product stream.