When it comes to sustainability, start-ups like Allbirds and Rothy’s may have a leg up on giants like Nike.
In an interview with Fast Company about adopting sustainable solutions, Nike chief sustainability officer Hannah Jones conceded that the sneaker behemoth has its work cut out for it. “We are retrofitting an old model, but at Nike we’re lucky because we like to disrupt ourselves,” she said.
Disruption begins with raw materials like cotton, polyester and leather. Jones said Nike is examining how to lessen the footprint of each one.
“And that’s where innovation acumen comes in,” she said, adding that Nike is considering “radical alternatives to cotton.”
With a footprint and value chain as expansive and global as Nike’s, the company is taking on sustainability step by step. “We’re in the factories. We’re even down to the raw materials thinking about how can we do this differently—how can we reduce those limits and that old thinking and transform and serve the customer,” Jones told Fast Company.
Earlier this year, Nike joined the Sustainable Cotton Communiqué pledge to use 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025. The company also debuted Nike Flyleather, a new “super material” made with at least 50 percent recycled leather fiber and water power.
Nike vice president of footwear innovation Tony Bignell said the company is “creating a new conversation across performance categories to include materials that have otherwise been retired from the options list for products such as footwear, apparel and equipment.”
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