Nike Looks to Collaborate on Sustainability

Nike Inc. has developed a software tool designed to help designers incorporate sustainability efforts in the pre-production process—and the footwear and athletic-apparel giant is sharing the software with other manufacturers.

Nike spent seven years—and $6 million—to develop the Environmental Apparel Design Tool, which helps designers make real-time decisions to reduce waste and conserve limited resources such as oil and water.

By sharing the tool with other manufacturers, the Beaverton, Ore.–based company hopes to expand sustainable-materials resources. And, since the tool was built using open-source software, Nike is inviting others to improve the tool, as well.

“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 proved to be invaluable at Nike and has helped us create products with a higher sustainability standard,” said Hannah Jones, vice president of Nike for sustainable business and innovation.

“By releasing the 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 industry adoption of sustainable design practices and have more sustainable products available for the consumer.”

The design tool was developed through the Nike Considered Design initiative, which was founded to create performance products that minimize environmental impact. Considered Design looks to reduce waste throughout the supply chain and to encourage the use of environmentally friendly materials.

Nike designers used the tool to create environmentally friendly and technologically advanced soccer jerseys worn by the American, Brazilian, Dutch, Portuguese, South Korean, Australian, New Zealand, Serbian and Slovenian teams at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The 100 percent recycled polyester jerseys diverted 13 million plastic bottles from landfills, according to Nike. Over the last year, Nike has doubled its use of recycled polyester—an effort the company estimates has kept 82 million plastic bottles out of landfills.

“Nike’s decision to open-source this design tool is a win-win because it leverages important intellectual capital to benefit an entire industry,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups that works with companies on sustainability issues. “Whether for sneakers or cars, it is hugely important to integrate water, chemical, energy and waste considerations into all product design. If all apparel companies used this tool, the impact could be breathtaking, from less-clogged landfills to expanding our sustainable-material industries.”

Earlier this year, Nike pledged to place more than 400 patents in GreenXchange, a Web-based networking site that invites companies to share intellectual property and collaborate on new innovations and sustainability business models.

The Environmental Apparel Design Tool is available online at

The company will release its Footwear Design Tool, Material Assessment Tool and Water Assessment Tool in 2011.

An informational video on the Environmental Apparel Design Tool is available at

The company will also host instructional webinars about the tool. For more information, visit

Nike subsidiaries include Cole Haan, Converse Inc., Hurley International LLC and Umbro Ltd.Alison A. Nieder