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MIT Climate CoLab and Nike Call for Materials Innovation to Combat Climate Change

As part of NIKE, Inc.’s strategic focus to reduce its environmental footprint and enable business growth, the company announced two efforts today aimed at furthering that commitment: a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Climate CoLab to bring innovation in materials to the forefront of the climate conversation and a commitment to reach 100-percent renewable energy in company-owned-and-operated facilities by 2025.

“For more than a decade, we’ve worked hard to understand where our greatest impacts lie. We know materials make up about 60 percent of the environmental impact in a pair of Nike shoes,” said Hannah Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer and VP, Innovation Accelerator, NIKE, Inc. “This knowledge has focused us on the need to bring new low-impact performance materials to scale through innovative solutions.”

According to research by MIT’s Materials System Laboratory about the global impact of materials on climate change, the global apparel industry is expected to produce more than 400 billion square meters of fabric per year – representing nearly enough material to cover the state of California – and is estimated to consume nearly 1 billion kWh (kilowatt hour) of electricity every year. According to the research, creating and processing materials are significant contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Through this collaboration with Nike, the MIT Climate CoLab can help kick-start the conversation around materials by galvanizing our global community to start to tackle this immense challenge,” said Professor Thomas W. Malone, Principal Investigator and Founder of the MIT Climate CoLab project. “The Climate CoLab is harnessing the power of collective thinking to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges and develop solutions to drive a new shared understanding that, ultimately, can enable transformative change.”

The MIT Climate CoLab Materials Challenge, opening for submissions September 25, 2015, seeks revolutionary new ideas for how to engage industries, designers and consumers in valuing, demanding and adopting low-impact fabrics and textiles.

Once materials are created and sourced, they go into the hands of designers, which is why Nike created the MAKING App, a predictive app that helps designers and product creators make better decisions about their materials choices. Nike recently updated the app to highlight the climate-related impact of materials choices alongside chemistry, waste and water.

MAKING App Energy

MAKING App Energy


MAKING App Energy

“We believe in treating sustainability as an innovation opportunity that can deliver new scalable, sustainable solutions that will accelerate us into a low carbon economy,” said Jones. “Our goal is to help catalyze and unleash innovators, investors, companies and civil society to solve one of the world’s largest innovation opportunities together.”

To target the environmental impacts that extend beyond materials, Nike today also announced its commitment to reach 100-percent renewable energy in company-owned or operated facilities by 2025.

“Climate change is a global issue that requires global solutions,” said Eric Sprunk, Chief Operating Officer, NIKE, Inc. “As part of our business strategy, we are pursuing the use of renewable energy, driving energy efficiency and innovating in sustainable materials for athletes and for the future of sport.”

This week Nike has joined RE100, a global campaign led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, designed to engage, support and showcase influential businesses making similar commitments.

Nike has already implemented on-site renewable energy generation at some of its largest facilities, including solar panels at the China Logistics Center in Taicang, and solar panels and wind turbines at the company’s renewable energy-powered European Logistics Campus in Belgium. 

European Logistics Campus
Nike’s European Logistics Campus in Belgium

Beyond its own operations, for more than a decade Nike has worked with its contract factories to help them implement programs to understand their energy use and climate impacts, increase their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon emissions. Recognizing the importance of a consistent, clean energy supply, Nike continues to proactively support contract factories’ use of clean energy solutions and has invested in efforts to identify future local clean energy supply opportunities for contract factories.

Nike believes these efforts – from materials innovation, to energy efficiency in its supply chain, to the commitment of pursuing renewable energy – will deliver on Nike’s long-term strategy to reduce its environmental footprint through sustainable innovation.

Read More: Sustainability Sb&I