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Nike sprints ahead in the heated innovation race

Date
19 February 2013
Nike sprints ahead in the heated innovation race

The Climate Group’s Head of Member Engagement, North America, Dasha Rettew, writes about Nike’s recent innovation and sustainability successes and continuing leadership, for our Clean Revolution blog.

By Dasha Rettew, Head of Member Engagement, North America, The Climate Group.

One of our members, Nike, has earned the title ‘most innovative company of 2013’ out of 50 top companies which were hand-picked by renowned innovation-hunter, Fast Company magazine.

Other partners of The Climate Group in the impressive list include Coca-Cola and Google, proving that the world’s leading companies are now prioritizing both innovation and sustainability, often as activities that go hand in hand.

Nike was chosen for the top spot for its ground-breaking feather light running shoes, as well as its Fuelband bracelet.

Sustainable sneakers

Importantly, in coming up with the game-changing sneaker, the Flyknit Racer, the company totally re-thought the shoe so that the company could do more, with less. And Nike nailed it.

The Flynit Racer is made from knit threading rather than several layers of fabric. This process eliminates waste, due to less materials being extracted, used and discarded.

As well as reducing production costs this of course also equals overall less emissions, an innovation of which Hannah Jones, VP of Sustainable Business and Innovation, Nike, says: ”could turn the [shoe] industry on its head.”

Nike succeeded with the sneaker design because it zoned-in on the materials as well as the supply chain. The company has automated the collection of 85% of its climate and energy data for Nike owned and operated locations in North America, and is working to identify the full lifecycle energy and greenhouse gas impacts of individual Nike products, meaning that the positive impact of the shoe is quantifiably significant.

Hannah Jones says: “In addition, as materials such as rubber become harder to come by because of overharvesting or climate change, we're going to be able to navigate the volatility of these resources.”

Nike now also has the opportunity to manufacture the shoe in new regions such as Brazil, which will save on costs to import the sneakers to the area, as well as keep the carbon footprint of the product under control.

Green innovation profits

Innovation is not new to Nike. It has long placed advanced products with lower environmental impacts at the core of its business as part of its initiative Nike Better World.

This forward-thinking ethos helps embed innovation into design and development of Nike products, ensuring it stays ahead of the curve on pioneering products.

One of the most revolutionizing visions from Nike Better World is of the closed loop; in this case, taking old materials and transforming them into new products, which led to the Nike Flyknit innovation.

Nike also designs products made from recycled materials, which reduces energy consumption by an estimated 30% compared to producing virgin polyester.

And the impact of this clean revolution on the business? It's big. Nike's annual revenue hit $24 billion last year and profits are up 57%, with Nike's market cap more than doubling.

Where Nike is clearly leading the way, other companies should follow suit or risk falling behind, both environmentally and economically, in the heated innovation race.

Read more about Nike Better World

Back to Clean Revolution Blog.

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