With stores all over the world, over 75,000 employees, and a yearly revenue of over 35 billion USD, it’s very hard to travel to a corner of the world where people have not seen the iconic swoosh. Even though Nike is one of the best-known brands in the world, it has suffered from a bad reputation. The company has been mass-producing since the ’70s and have been accused of using sweatshops in Asia for manufacturing its sneakers and apparel. But the times are changing, and so is Nike.
Back in the day, brands didn’t take responsibility for their factories because they didn’t own them. Although today’s brands still rarely own the factories they manufacture in, the level of responsibility has changed. Since the turn of the millennium, Nike has stepped up its game and shown that change towards a more modern and sustainable company is possible. Currently, this mainly translates into transparency. Being more transparent is the first and most important step towards more sustainable practices. Nike actively maps out its supply chain, which we can see on its website. You can have a look at the factory map, which shows the independent factories and material suppliers Nike works with. When you, the consumer, gain insight into how the garments are produced, the chances of malpractices substantially decrease. That’s why transparency is so important. Besides that, it allows the company to track and measure the emissions generated by these facilities, which gives us the total carbon footprint of its supply chain and opens the door to effective climate action.
Nike is eagerly making use of the tools and organizations that are available to help. With the Science Based Targets Initiative, the company has set reduction emissions for scope 1 and 2 at 65% and for scope 3 at 30% by 2030, perfectly in line with the Paris Agreement. Through the Carbon Disclosure Project, these emissions are reported yearly. Nike has a Code of Conduct for workers in place and is a member of the Fair Labor Association, which improves working conditions in the supply chain. Nike itself is also taking initiatives and released a “Move to Zero” campaign, which aims to protect the future of sport through the combat of climate change.
However, change comes slowly when you’re a giant company like Nike. The last known yearly emissions generated by Nike amounted to 10 million metric tons of carbon, which is an enormous amount. Even though the company is continually increasing the quality of its materials, the origins remain largely unknown. Its use of renewable energy during manufacturing and packaging is still a child’s game and while targets for water, chemicals and better labor, are ambitious, they are far away from being met. Finally, the animal materials Nike uses are not always certified, which is something that can easily be improved. Nike is named after the Greek goddess of victory and has marched into the sports scene to become one of the greatest brands in the world. While it has started the march towards a sustainable company, the staggering amount of products that Nike produces can never truly be sustainable. There is room for improvement though, let’s see where the company takes us.