I was wrong about Nike & Corporate Responsibility

I was talking with the owner of Teko socks several weeks ago and he brought up the great work Nike has done for the industry, specifically in regards to sustainable development. I was surprised, to say the least, but then I realized that Nike probably endures more scrutiny than most other companies regarding their business practices. I was also surprised because it didn’t fit with my pre-conceived notions of a large, corporate behemoth swaggering the globe in search of cheap resources and cheaper labor. But that was my misconception because it turns out the Nike is committed to the ideas of environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility.

I spent a part of this evening reading through their Considered Design and the Environment  (141.3K) and my entire impression of Nike has changed.  They have an entire site dedicated to this idea of  "Innovate for a Better World", which doesn’t itemize the challenges of working towards a sustainable business model but embraces the possibilities for innovation and improvement both in their products and in the way they do business. Here are some of their FY11 goals:

  • 17% reduction in footwear waste
  • 31% reduction in packaging and point of purchase waste
  • All Nike footwear will meet or exceed standards set in their sustainability index
  • All Nike brand facilities and business travel will be climate neutral

They have created a new design ethos called Considered Line and from their "Considered Design and the Environment" here is a definition of that design:

"…with goals to to fuel constant improvements in our design and production processes that lessen our impact on the environment and society, using sustainability as a source of innovation ad a way to inspire new thinking and deliver tangible results"

One of the best lines from this document is about not just delivering green products but rather "the extent to which the company is committed to greening its entire supply chain." How often have you felt that this whole green trend is just another marketing or selling angle and really Nike’s statements goes to the heart of the matter.

Because of their size, Nike can influence suppliers, manufacturing processes and standards and be an industry leader in promoting the rights of their workers – they aim to improve conditions in their contract factories. In fact, their Web site has a whole section devoted to workers and factories.

One of the requirements of blogging is that I feel compelled to actually research some of the ideas I yanter on about, but one of the unexpected benefits is that I read about companies or individuals, who are already working within a new paradigm, a new business model. Sometimes, my reading forces me to reevaluate, as in the case of Nike, but I come out richer for it.

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