Our Approach to Better Chemistry
OUR APPROACH

Chemistry plays an essential role in product innovation and manufacturing at Nike. It can influence and elevate product performance and design; yet the chemistry can also affect sustainability of our overall product creation process.

 

In conjunction with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Foundation (ZDHC), we have committed to an ambitious goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals in our supply chain by 2020.

 

We work collaboratively across our Nike teams and with industry peers to evaluate and restrict the use of certain chemicals, promote the development and use of better chemistries and make products in a way that protects consumers, workers and the environment.

Why is chemistry important?

Every product made in the world has a chemical component. Chemistry is how we discover new materials and improve what we’ve got, hence why it’s so important that we get chemistry right.

 

In conjunction with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Foundation (ZDHC), we have committed to an ambitious goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals in our supply chain by 2020.

 

However, this is only one step in the journey. This ambition to reduce our impact requires more than the implementation of our Restricted Substance List (RSL) and Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL). It demands a commitment to work with industry peers, so we can align on how we manage chemicals across a shared supply chain.

 

Nike’s chemistry team has built tools – for use both in-house and with suppliers – to make it easier to evaluate chemical choices early in the development process. These tools help us review new chemicals and formulations for human health and environmental hazards. This means we can work directly with chemical suppliers to better understand which substances should be replaced to meet our sustainability goals. Our focus goes well beyond regulated substances, seeking to identify chemistries that are considered controversial and reducing their use in the manufacturing of Nike products.

What are we doing about it?

Achieving our goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals requires more than the implementation of our internal programs. It demands our continued commitment to collaborate with industry peers, aligning on how we manage chemicals across a shared supply chain.

Innovating Better Chemistry

Chemistry plays a critically important role within product innovation and manufacturing at Nike. We are developing new technologies that are low-impact and high-performance, and we are working with our supply chain to use more sustainable chemistry. We’re phasing out controversial chemicals and stopping them from entering our supply chain. We define controversial chemicals as those rated Hazard Category 1 (or Green Screen® Benchmark 1), those with high skin-sensitization potential and those Nike has determined are priority.

 

We are focused on three areas of better chemistry to move us closer to our goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals:

  • Elevating Chemicals Management Capability: We baselined performance at 121 strategic suppliers to help prioritize improvements and guide development of shared assessment tools.
  • Assessing New Chemicals: Going beyond compliance by strengthening our review of new chemicals through a robust toxicological screening process.
  • Prioritizing Chemicals: Ahead of compliance, identifying priority chemicals for phase-out based on an intensive review of the chemicals used throughout our supply chain’s manufacturing processes.

 

This work requires us to relentlessly raise the bar and demands constant alignment with our suppliers to ensure we deliver products with maximum performance and minimum impact.

Better Management

We work closely with our materials vendors and contract factories to implement leading standards and chemical management practices that support the effective control of chemicals.

 

In 2001, we shared our first Restricted Substances List (RSL), a set of requirements for materials that met or exceeded legal restrictions from around the world, including substances that we voluntarily restricted from products. In 2017, we adopted the AFIRM Industry Restricted Substances List – a unified list of chemical restrictions for the footwear and apparel industry to co-created. When a failure occurs, we work with the supplier to resolve the issue and stop it from happening again.

 

Nike’s chemistry team has built tools – for use both in-house and with suppliers – to make it easier to evaluate chemical choices early in the development process. These tools help us review new chemicals and formulations for human health and environmental hazards. they help chemical suppliers understand which substances should be replaced to meet our sustainability goals, and how to improve the way they procure, manage, store, handle and dispose of chemicals. Our focus goes well beyond regulated substances to identify and reduce the use of chemistries that are considered controversial in manufacturing Nike products.

Industry Alignment

We collaborate with several industry associations, such as the ZDHC, Apparel and Footwear International RSL Management (AFIRM) Group and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) to create guidelines and policies for the industry as a whole.

 

We also work alongside member brands, suppliers and organizations to align on common approaches to managing chemicals, and share best practices that support their implementation across the supply chain. Some examples of success include the AFIRM RSL, the ZDHC MRSL and Wastewater Guidelines, and the Higg FEM Chemical’s Management Module.