NIKE leads the sustainable way – they decide to “just do it”!

So if you are a company that manufactures apparel or if you’re an investor in a company of such nature, there’s no longer any excuses not to be advancing on the sustainability front.  Earlier this week, Nike announced that they have released their Environmental Apparel Design Tool which is based upon Nike’s Considered Design Index. According to the company, “the release of this tool is aimed to help the whole industry accelerate collaboration between companies, fast-track sustainable innovation and decrease the use of natural resources like oil and water.”

This tool has been built and designed by Nike at a cost of $6 million over 7 years. They claim that this tool allows designers to make real time choices, that it proves a practical way to rate how apparel designs score in reducing waste and increasing the use of environmentally preferred materials while allowing the designers to make real time adjustments.  According to  Hannah Jones, Vice President of Nike Sustainable Business and Innovation:

This tool is about making it simple for designers to make the most sustainable choices right at the start of the product creation process. Over the past four years it has proven to be invaluable at Nike and has helped us create products with a higher sustainability standard.  By releasing this tool we want others to improve on it and we hope to inspire further collaboration to create global industry standards for a level playing field, encourage widespread adoption of sustainable design practices and have more sustainable products available for the consumer.

They go on to talk about how they are making a difference in the use of this tool and how it can have a generally larger impact if others in their industry embrace their usage.

They talk about the football jerseys that were produced for the South Africa FIFA 2010.  Made from 100% recycled polyester, the material choice diverted 13 million plastic bottles from landfill.  In the last year alone, Nike doubled its use of recycled polyester, saving 82 million plastic bottles from landfill.  They go on to say that if all apparel companies committed to converting 1/3 of their polyester garments to recycled polyester, the demand for recycled polyester world be greater than the annual production of plastic bottles, diverting PET bottles from landfill.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to understand what that would mean in financial terms?  Sounds like if this moves forward it could certainly have an impact on the chemical sector on top of the apparel business, no?

So the sceptic in me asks “Great, but what do Nike’s competitors think of this?”  Well according to Mike Barry, Head of Sustainability of Mark & Spencer:

As a company committed to developing a sustainable business, we welcome this kind of industry collaboration. The Nike tool will help apparel companies and retailers design more sustainable product.  We firmly believe that sharing knowledge like this helps us all move forward towards a more sustainable future faster.

On a final note from Nike, it appears that the company will also be releasing it Footwear Design Tool, Material Assessment Tool and Water Assessment Tool in 2011.  Now if that’s not leadership, I’m not sure what is!

The Environmental Apparel Design Tool can be found at:  www.nikebiz.com/responsibility/nikeenvironmentaldesigntool.com

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