"How [brand here] can change the world?" is a new series of articles we're releasing aimed at highlighting how visionary brands are/can have a major impact on the future of society.
Today we're looking at one of the most forward-thinking brands around Nike.
Nike is constantly at the forefront with their products & marketing; traditionally leading the sports & entertainment industry through emotional storytelling and high-profile partnerships. But it's also their approach to ethical strategies that have given them a unique edge over many brands. Yet they also suffer from a number of PR issues that will continue to challenge their position.
CEO Mark Parker likes to ask his team a single question: “Can we double our business, while halving our environmental impact?”.
First we should probably say that "single question" (as great as it might be) has to be reimagined to account for a more wholesome perspective.
Mark Parker should ask whether Nike can double their business whilst alsodirectly solving issues around inequality, poverty, diversity and climate change instead of just focussing on the environmental part.
The reason environmental is at the forefront of the current Nike ethical mantra is because of it's link to the production process. Reducing production costs leads to higher profits and it makes complete sense to ensure sustainable approaches are being developed. But, if Nike were to also give equal thought to other global issues such as poverty, inequality or even education could they easily succeed in making a difference and growing profits?
How have Nike been at the forefront of CSR?
Sustainability directly linked to product development & the circular economy
A recent report claimed that almost 71% of footwear and apparel uses “Nike Grind,” which is made of recycled polyester and other materials. Forward-thinking approaches to sustainable fashion is a high-priority and with "Fast-fashion" defined as the "second biggest polluter next to oil" there is a clear need for new methodologies. According to the "Nike Grind" website; "Nike is constantly striving for the best, creating value for business and innovating for a better world. Nike’s vision is that our products will be “closed loop”—that is, they will use the fewest possible materials and be assembled in ways that allow them to be readily recycled into new products. Our long term vision is to create a continuous loop without waste."
Water: A Global Responsibility
Nike is innovating its materials development and management to address the impact of climate change on the supply chain and reduce its environmental impact. One area of concentration is water conservation.
In 2012, Nike partnered with DyeCoo Textile Systems, a Dutch startup, and adopted their new carbon-based dyeing process that dyes garments without using water or chemicals. Without water, the process also reduces its energy use by 60 percent since the garment doesn’t have to be dried. It also dyes 40 percent faster. In addition, Nike has pledged that it will eliminate hazardous chemicals from its global supply chain by 2020.
In 2015 approximately 20 of the brand’s contract factories in both finished goods manufacturing and materials dyeing and finishing used 500,000 MWh of renewable energy. Nike has committed to working with contract factories to scale renewable energy use. The brand aims to reach 100% renewable energy in owned or operated facilities by the end of 2025.
Transparency drives change; even when there's potential for PR disasters!
In 2005, Nike was the first company in its industry to demonstrate transparency, when it published a complete list of its contract factories. The intentional moves toward change proved successful: In 2013, auditors found violations in 16 percent of factories (down from 29 percent in 2012). Incidences of excessive overtime went down to 55 (from 116 in 2012), and 93 percent of factories reported no incidences (up from 87 percent in 2012). The willingness to change and be open to scrutiny can't be ignored.
"Nike believes in the power of human potential. That’s why they invest in and support the Girl Effect, the idea that adolescent girls have a unique potential to end poverty for themselves and the world."
"Today’s children are the least active generation in history. Physical inactivity has reached epidemic levels that threaten social and economic prosperity for individuals, companies and nations around the world. Nike partnered with more than 90 expert organisations to develop Designed to Move, a framework for action to break and prevent the physical inactivity cycle around the world."
Nike and Spotify teamed up for Nike Women’s 10k running events in London (March to June) with the twin objectives of driving awareness of music’s positive effect on running performance and increasing Spotify’s monthly active usage among female runners.
The Future Vision?
What do the likes of Greenpeace and Oxfam think?
"Nike takes an unfortunate FAUX PAS on its Detox Catwalk performance and is the only brand to completely fail on all three of the categories assessed. Nike does not ensure its suppliers report their hazardous chemical discharge data and has not made a commitment to do so. Nike needs to transform its attitude to its Detox programme and take individual responsibility for its contribution to the hazardous chemical problem." - Greenpeace
Other publicly scrutinised areas to address?
1) Better wages
2) The right to form trade unions
Nike sets up shop in countries and free trade zones where it is illegal or extremely difficult for workers to organise into unions. Without this united structure it is near impossible for individual workers to ask for improved conditions without fear of retribution.
3) A confidential complaints process
4) Ban short-term contracts
"Nike moves its production where it likes when it likes and does not ban or discourage short-term contracts for its workers. So when it leaves an area those workers on short-term contracts are left with nothing.
Whilst Nike is considered a real leader in CSR initiatives it's also clearly very difficult to sift through the reality of what each local situation actually is as many brands are masters of evasion through their own PR and Marketing. Companies like Oxfam and Greenpeace and new tech ideas like Project Just are constantly alert to try help brands adapt, peacefully or otherwise...
The KRPT Vision
Nike is one of the most influential companies in the world; however, competitors such as Adidas and Under Armour are regularly challenging for one of their many thrones. New brands also pose an emerging threat as technologies like 3d printing have the potential to shift the balance of power and reimagine the whole industry.
Technology: Platforms, stories and software...
The changing internet landscape is also constantly driving a shift in approach as brands are able to explore new platforms and strategies to engage their audience. The effectiveness of "micro-influencer strategies" will become an even bigger approach for brands and the traditional "celebrity/high-profile" strategy will naturally start to integrate the connection between the hobbyist and pros in more detail. Many suggest that it will completely change the balance of power between high profile stars and "micro-influencers" but realistically brands like Nike will want to merge the storyboards & scripts between the "amateurs" and the "pros". Like here...
Software that engages the audience in a more consistent way will continue to define a large aspect of tech innovation with projects like Nike+ leading the way. These have the potential to engage customers in a more intimate manner, serving the most relevant message at the right time if leveraged right. One key challenge is ensuring teams can apply data-centric thinking effectively. This is primarily reliant on internal and external software/partnerships and the technical skillset of in-house/external strategists.
Societal Factors & Public Shaming
Additionally a number of companies now exist to publicly rate and report on a companies ethical policies. This represents a growing challenge for organisations to keep up with the ethical standards of society.
Below are some examples on how Nike & other brands can adapt; using the KRPT Approach.
- Involve & Support the scene: Collaborate with grassroots movements and influencers - Directly involving local/global scenes in research, strategy and execution phases ensures "finger on the pulse" when it comes to culture & and more diverse strategies. Working with a partner like shesaid.So for examples gives a dedicated perspective on diversity from a grass-roots perspective; most other local scenes also exist around similar movements and influencers.
- Create a movement: Deeper connections and partnerships with global institutions - Nike is an existing partner of the UN however more impactful collaboration between global initiatives could drive huge change. Huge musicians like Gilles Peterson all the way to giant sports stars are all involved in their own/other charitable projects and brands like Nike can easily find ways to support whilst also leveraging ability to create content and power other aspects of marketing agendas.
- Connect Physical and Digital Worlds: Explore collaborations with universities and tech companies - Aim to solve global issues and drive innovation through "hackathons", collaborations and launching investment funds. Companies like Disney are known for their link to technology however even the likes of Nike, Adidas and Under Armour are taking their own approaches to this opportunity; a bit late some may say. To really make unique breakthroughs brands should explore working with universities and tech companies in new ways; driving product innovation should be high on the agenda."Nike + Fuel Lab" is one way Nike is opening up their platform to work with developers and these collaborations will naturally drive the business forward as tech keeps evolving.
- Inspire the Next Generation: Work with more schools - Developing projects like the "Nike Innovation School Fund" are great examples of how large brands can directly make a difference to education. Developing regions in Africa for example are still far-behind though when it comes to education and large organisations have a responsibility to support this challenge and scale a solution on a global level.
- Recycling and gifting schemes: explore how to better engage and empower next generation to recycle. Develop in-house/partnership driven schemes that expand on the amazing potential of "Nike Grind".
What is The KRPT Group?
KRPT is a global movement; we work with inspiring brands to balance their social, cultural, and commercial responsibilities. By setting up ethical campaigns that involve influential collaborators; we help brands drive results and real change.
We've built a global network of over 1,000 hand-picked artists, labels, blogs, brands and visual creators who are ready to collaborate on the right projects. Our agency and technology help us develop authentic campaigns more efficiently and a series of in-house ethical projects ensure we're making a large impact on causes that we're passionate about.
Learn more about vision at krpt.co.uk