Earlier this month, I attended a seminar on sustainability innovation in the tech industry at Dreamforce 2010, salesforce.com’s 8th annual conference (anyone familiar with Dreamforce, or with salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff, should recognize this massive understatement—imagine a sales event-rock concert-thought leadership expo and you’ll get a rough idea). Titled “How Efficiency, Collaboration & Innovation Can Help Mitigate Climate Change”, the session brought together Eric Olson, Senior Vice President at Business for Social Responsibility; Lorrie Vogel, General Manager of Nike Considered; and Ted Howes, co-lead of IDEO’s Energy Practice, to share their thoughts on the role of technology in solving one of society’s biggest challenges.
I was particularly intrigued by Lorrie Vogel’s discussion points, which covered two exciting topics: Considered Design, Nike’s closed-loop design vision, and the GreenXchange, an open platform for sharing patented design information (which I will cover in my next blog post). For this discussion, I want to discuss Considered Design and some thoughts about the broader implications that sustainability implementers of all types can draw from Nike’s model.
At its core, Considered Design represents a coordinated approach to tackling what sustainability means (definition) and how it is achieved (implementation). For a major footwear and apparel manufacturer, sustainability issues cut to the heart of business: making core products in a completely new way, without sacrificing quality. Considered Design serves as Nike’s big first step toward realizing a long-term vision of closed-loop design for all of its products.
- Reduced waste: A new shoe box, planned for use with all shoe products by 2011, uses 100% recycled fiber and features a design that reduces fiber content by roughly 30% over previous models.
- Reduced pollution: By 2009, 76% of Nike shoes contained environmentally preferred rubbers (up from 3% in 2004), which are patented formulas that reduce toxins by more 95% yet mimic the performance and look-feel of traditional rubber. There is no cost difference.
- Reduced GHG emissions:
- Eliminated the use of potent greenhouse gas SF6 from all footwear products.
- Reduced carbon emissions from owned facilities and business travel by 18% between 1998-2005 despite facility growth of 6% over that period.
- Better farming practices & industry transformation: Organic cotton represents 14% (>21 million pounds) of the cotton fiber used in Nike Apparel products, making Nike the 3rd largest retail user of organic cotton in the world. Nike currently incorporates most of the organic cotton fiber as blend material in apparel, using a minimum 5% blend for 86% of cotton products. The 5% blend has become an industry standard for yarn suppliers who supply a range of other brands and Nike plans to double the minimum to 10% by 2015, a decision likely to ripple across the apparel supply chain.