Sport brings us together, gives us the thrill of competition, and teaches us that we can always improve. But with the world shifting in dramatic ways, so is sport. Science has exposed environmental degradation is occurring at a rapid pace. Carbon emissions, chemical usage and water scarcity threaten our global population. Human activity is contributing to an array of challenges—from rising seas to intensifying droughts—that impact billions.
At Nike, we exist to serve athletes, to create the future of sport. But if you can’t run because of air pollution, or if it’s too hot to play outside, or if your field is underwater, it becomes impossible for us to live out our mission.
That’s why we’re not sitting on the sidelines—we’re taking action. For years, we’ve held this unshakeable belief that there is no opportunity with more possibility than sustainable innovation. And for the companies of the future, embedding sustainability in all aspects of our business model isn’t just a “nice-to-have”—it’s a non-negotiable. In 2016, we announced our intention to put Nike on a much steeper trajectory than in the past. We set an ambitious goal: double our business while halving our environmental impact—an environmental “moonshot.” Drawing parallels to JFK’s famous ambition, we set this goal not knowing if or how it could be achieved. What we did know was that the answers lay outside our four walls, in the creative minds yet to be tapped across our industry, supply chain and adjacent sectors.
A moonshot is nothing but words on paper if you can’t bring it to life. Thus, our teams embarked on a robust scientific and analytic journey, studying our sourcing, manufacturing and distribution channels and tracing products back through our value chain. Through this, we charted an actionable roadmap to cut unneeded uses of carbon, water and controversial chemistry. We set milestones for ourselves, agreeing to check our progress in 2025. Then, we got to work. We set out to fundamentally reinvent every part of our business with a zero-compromise, all-encompassing approach, maximizing the performance and minimizing the environmental impact of every product we create.
Nevertheless, simply hitting these targets or scaling proven technologies and best practices will not be enough to halve our environmental impact. Achieving our moonshot will require new technologies yet to be invented and partnerships yet to be forged.
Our focus on closing this innovation gap means we’re doubling down on invention, design and collaboration unlike ever before. We’re challenging ourselves to imagine a different future, using our position at the forefront of manufacturing engineering and science to reimagine technologies and catalyze new processes. We’re asking questions such as:
- How can cotton be grown without irrigation?
- How can the next generation of polyester be carbon-negative?
- How can water and oil be repelled without using harmful chemicals?
- How can newly developed textile recycling solutions be scaled?
- How can the carbon footprint of shipping be reduced?
- How can the availability of better chemistry information be accelerated?
Taking an unprecedented step for our company and our industry, we’ve moved from wondering “if” disruptive change is possible to “how” we’ll take tangible action towards a better future. We can no longer just invent—we must invent with sustainability as our design constraint.
Today’s dream is bold—we’re getting closer to hitting our goal while igniting sustainable, global growth. But tomorrow’s dream is even more ambitious: to catalyze our entire industry to join us. Even if we hit our most ambitious targets, we are doing so in isolation—it won’t be enough to solve the world’s most pressing problems. To accelerate progress, it will take all of us – businesses, workers, civil society, and governments – working in collaboration. No one has all the answers, but all of us have a role to play.
If we dare to design the future, we must do it together. No matter our background, sustainability is the new frame through which to view any innovation. As engineers, we need to build better supply chains that minimize our footprint. As scientists, we need to create a new palette of low-impact materials. As coders, we need to develop new open-source initiatives that will disrupt and change the game. And as storytellers, we need to re-brand sustainable innovation as a cause that anyone, anywhere, can take part in. This is our call to action, our rally cry. We need the brightest minds of today to rise up and join us to create a better tomorrow.
Don’t sit on the sidelines. It’s time to get in the game.