HANNAH JONES: “FOR NIKE, SUSTAINABILITY IS A POWERFUL OPPORTUNITY TO INNOVATE”

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Hannah Jones is Nike, Inc.’s Chief Sustainability Officer and VP, Innovation Accelerator.

Hannah leads Nike’s Sustainable Business & Innovation team, with a goal to decouple growth from constrained resources through sustainable innovation. The team works to rethink materials, methods of make, products and business models to solve complex sustainability challenges.

As VP, Innovation Accelerator, Hannah shepherds a dynamic team designed to help innovation move smarter and faster via portfolio analytics, strategic partnerships, rapid piloting and innovation strategy.

From 2007-2010 she chaired the Sustainable Consumption initiative for the Consumer Industries grouping of the World Economic Forum and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in January 2007.

In 2013, Hannah was awarded the C.K. Prahalad Award for Global Business Sustainability Leadership. Hannah is a board member of the Ecover and Method Brands.

Hannah-Jones

What does sustainability mean at Nike?

For Nike, sustainability is a powerful opportunity to innovate. By looking at innovation through the creative lens of sustainability, we’re able to deliver a portfolio of products and services with maximum performance and minimal impact on the environment.

When Nike innovates, we always do it with athletes in mind. We want to invent with purpose and expand athletic potential beyond its limits.

Take, for example, Nike Flyknit technology. For hundreds of years, shoe making has remained basically the same: cut various materials – such as leather, polyester or rubber – into pieces and sew it all together. As you can imagine, cutting the different materials and pieces creates waste. Flyknit revolutionised the process by knitting strands of yarn into a nearly seamless upper. The technology benefits athletes because it delivers lightweight, formfitting footwear – and it also has minimal impact on the environment. In fact, since 2012 Flyknit has helped reduce waste by nearly two million pounds.

How does sustainability influence design at Nike?

Our designers are obsessed with each piece of material, every single stitch, anything they can do to help athletes perform better. So, instead of retrofitting how we think about sustainability after a product is made, we’ve hard-wired sustainability into each stage of our process from sketch to store shelf.

One way we’re doing this is through the Nike Materials Sustainability Index (MSI). As part of our sustainability journey, we invested more than eight years researching and analysing materials to create the Nike MSI, a database of more than 80,000 materials and their environmental impact, to make it easy for designers to make smarter decisions in the product creation process.

It’s apparent that materials are a huge focus for Nike. Why is that?

Materials are one of the most essential elements of footwear and apparel. At Nike, materials matter greatly – we know materials account for about sixty percent of the environmental footprint of a pair of Nike shoes.

We have learned that if we can get smarter about which materials we use, and the way we use them, we can not only reduce our environmental impact, but also set a new bar for strong product performance and drive growth for our business.

Recycled polyester is a common material used in Nike apparel and footwear. Since 2012, more than two billion plastic bottles have been turned into yarn used to make high-performance Nike footwear and apparel. The process of making recycled polyester fabric diverts waste from landfills and also reduces energy consumption, while delivering the performance and style our athletes demand.

We want materials to matter for the entire industry as well. We’re working to make information and resources available to designers around the world through tools like the MAKING App. Drawing on data from the Nike MSI, the MAKING App is the first step in putting this information in a tool that can be easily used by designers and product creators beyond Nike, helping them make informed decisions about the impacts of their materials choices.

When you take a step back from Nike and look across the entire industry, where do you see the greatest opportunities for progress?

We recognise the challenges facing our society are greater than one organization alone can solve. Significant collaboration is necessary if we want to take sustainability to scale. And the greatest collaborations can sometimes happen in unexpected places. Take LAUNCH, for example. It’s a strategic partnership between Nike, NASA, the U.S. Department of State and USAID – organisations you may not expect to see working together – with the goal to identify and help scale disruptive innovations.

LAUNCH is currently focused on innovation in materials and manufacturing that can have dramatic social, environmental and economic impacts on the world. We’re also partnering with universities, researchers, NGOs and even competitors to share forward-thinking practices and processes.

We know that when we change how we collaborate, we can change the world.

For more information on Nike’s approach to sustainable innovation visit the Nike Sustainable Business Performance Summary.

To see a full list of Nike’s positive actions, click here.

**This post first appeared on the Postive Luxury blog here.

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