Innovation At The Heart Of Nike

CSR March 24, 2014

Just like its athletes, always ready to take on new challenges, breaking records is the way business is done at NIKE. A multinational company that strives at pushing the envelope regarding sustainability through innovation. The importance of these two pillars is embedded by the sustainable business and innovation team managing the lifecycle of a product and its compliance with environmental responsibility.

Over 16000 materials are used in the production phase each year. A pair of shoes alone can use more than 30 materials. Keeping track of the products from their source till their fabrication phase makes the impact assessment a manageable task. Therefore, innovative tools are being created to manage sustainability.  The product creation teams use the Nike materials index to select eco-friendly materials through the innovation project placemat following four strategic steps; Explore, Develop, Pilot and Scale, the level of responsiveness of a project to these core pillars should be an indicator of its sustainability level and potential. Each material’s impacts are assessed in the areas of energy, chemistry, water and waste, to understand each phase independently and how it integrates with the ecosystem, representing the value chain of the company.

Engaging the entire business from suppliers, factories to farmers growing the organic cotton, the main goal is to deliver products and services that combine a high level of performance, innovation and sustainability.

Two additional sustainability indexes are being implemented as well regarding manufacturing, footwear and apparel.

The sustainability journey continues for Nike, and its success is strongly dependent on the innovation factor that the company feels strongly about, making it its culture and main driver of its business, by setting Nike apart from its competitors.

Nike believes that innovation comes in different colours and shapes. Equally important they serve as a response and main tool to many challenges, by increasing the probability of the impossible becoming possible through breakthrough ideas.

The disruptive idea category, is more of an “avant-gardiste” idea that has never been implemented before. Nike is keen on developing this area of expertise that will forge his pioneer identity on the market. The revolutionary innovation come as secondary and is related to the creation of  new ideas followed by the evolutionary category that addresses short term solutions.

Envisioning more growth for the future is a fact for companies. In the case of Nike being a 32 billion dollar company is just a transitory phase that will lead to 37 billion in 2017. Innovation is a key to tackle all obstacles standing in the way of achieving this goal.

From trying to determine what type of sole would be ideal for running shoes, to actually using a waffle maker to create it, this experiment placed Nike on the map, as a leading company in tailoring efficient products for athletes.

According to Steve Jobs; “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”

Having achieved their leadership on the market, Nike intends to expand it to the sustainability arena as well, since leadership doesn’t recognise division.

*Rima El Khoury comes from a background in Political Science and International Relations. She holds a Masters Degree in Sustainable Development and Corporate Responsibility from EOI (Escuela de Organizacion Industrial) in Madrid.