Nike Creates Environmental Apparel Design Tool Free For Use

Published on December 1st, 2010 | by

Nike has come a long way from the PR and labor problems of the early 1990’s. So far in fact that they have spent much of time between that period and now, working on a design tool that shows the environmental impact of raw materials they have chosen for a specific product. However, the most impressive part is that Nike is making this “open source”, that is allowing free usage of their software to others in the industry, which seems to show their commitment to reforming an industry that has largely underperformed compared to other sectors based on environmental and social aspects.

According to Nike, the design tool took seven years and six million dollars to develop and the company has been utilizing it for the last four. The goal is to track the environmental impact of each particular product a company makes, with the specific goal of reducing the use of natural resources such as oil and water and the software can be used do that in real time. In fact it’s a bit like creating custom Nike shoes on the Nike website. There you can change colors, fabrics, linings, shoelaces and even add initials and in attempt to design your own shoe. The simulation aspect is much the same for the environmental apparel design tool as you can enter different types of materials for your product to see what type of environmental impact specific raw materials may have.

Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see how this tool will be utilized as far as its reach within the industry goes, as well as its overall effectiveness. Nike has already been impacted. “In the last year alone, Nike doubled its use of recycled polyester, saving 82 million plastic bottles from landfill. If all apparel companies committed to converting one third of their polyester garments to recycled polyester, the demand for recycled polyester would be greater than the annual production of plastic bottles, diverting PET bottles from landfill.” That may be wishful thinking for now, as we know some apparel companies that are notoriously unengaged when it comes to environmental and social issues, but it’s good to see a company that is not only developing intellectual capital like this but one that is attempting to proliferate its use.

For a company to invest the amount of time, resources and money into software such as this, it shows a serious commitment. Oh and there’s more to come. Look for Nike’s release of the Footwear Design Tool, Material Assessment Tool and Water Assessment Tool in 2011.

Image Credit by CaglarCity via Flickr under a CC license


About the Author

Jonathan has worked in both journalism and various facets of small business development over the past eight years. Most recently, he graduated from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (graduate school of Middlebury College) in 2010 with an MBA and an MA in International Development Policy. His interests include SME development and its role in economic growth, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as how CSR/Sustainability measures impact both business operations and the communities in which businesses operate. While at MIIS he worked as a summer fellow involved in small business consulting in Accra, Ghana and was an active member of the MIIS Net Impact chapter. As a life long traveler, Jonathan has been fortunate to have lived in, worked in or visited over 20 countries on 5 continents and he truly hopes that he will be able to continue this trend.