Nike says ‘just do it’ to the circular economy

Sportswear giant Nike aims to build on progress made in its latest sustainability report by integrating the circular economy into its business strategy, after becoming the latest major brand to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as a global partner.

Nike aims to become a key player in a network of organisations including H&M, Cisco, Kingfisher, Philips, Google, Renault and Unilever, by supporting the transition to the circular economy across respective industries.

The Foundation partnership will build on Nike’s innovation efforts towards a closed-loop future by advancing strategic initiatives and collaborative industry efforts that create business growth and deliver a low-carbon growth economy.

Dame Ellen MacArthur said: “We are delighted to welcome Nike to our existing group of Global Partners who share our vision to drive system-wide change to bring about the transition to a circular economy and inspire a generation to bring about this change.

“Nike is one of the biggest sporting brands in the world, an industry leader who has long understood that resources are finite and staying ahead of the game means innovating through the lens of circularity.”

Best foot forward

The announcement of Nike’s intention to further elevate the role of closed-loop thinking within its business strategy arrives in the same week as its 2015 Sustainable Business Report, which details strong progress against the company’s long-term environmental targets.

In 2015, Nike achieved an 18% reduction in CO2 emissions per unit across footwear manufacturing, inbound logistics and built environment against a 2011 benchmark. Water efficiency in apparel materials improved by 15% per unit and 6% waste reduction savings were made in footwear apparel and equipment manufacturing. Since 2010, more than three billion plastic bottles have been diverted from landfills and converted into recycled polyester for Nike performance products.

Nevertheless, there is still considerable room for improvements in making overall greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions within the company. Overall, both absolute energy use and absolute CO2 emissions in Nike’s assessed footprint increased 14% each from 2011 through to 2015.

New business model

Nike’s sustainability report reveals a number of strategic aims that guide an ambition to double its business while halving the company’s environmental impact. Last year, the sportswear firm made a landmark target to reach 100% renewable energy in its own or operated facilities by the end of 2025, as part of the RE100 initiative.

Nike aims to deliver products for maximum performance with minimum impact, and to achieve this goal the firm has set itself a 10% reduction target in the average environmental footprint and an objective to eliminate footwear manufacturing waste to landfill or incineration by 2020.

Nike chief executive Mark Parker said: “This represents a new business model, driven by sustainable innovation. I believe it will accelerate change like the world has never seen. It means leveraging all of our talents. It means taking the long view. And above all, it means embracing an innovation mindset, where we push the limits of our business – and our collective potential – in unprecedented ways.”

Ocean waste footwear

Nike’s sustainability report comes shortly after fellow sportswear company Adidas revealed plans to “create responsibility”, by unveiling numerous footprint reduction targets for 2020. Adidas has previously demonstrated a sustainable business strategy through innovative projects which include creating a prototype shoe made from recycled ocean waste and deep-sea gillnets.

Last month, edie reported that food processing and packaging company Tetra Pak had become a corporate member of the Circular Economy 100 (CE100), the innovation platform launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to accelerate circular economy ambitions.

George Ogleby

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