This week, Nike, Inc. made an internal design tool publicly available to the rest of the apparel design and retail community. The Environmental Apparel Design Tool evaluates waste, energy, toxics and water in materials and manufacturing, enabling companies to affect the most significant components of a product’s environmental impact. It has been used internally for four years at Nike after a seven-year, six million dollar investment to design and build the software-based tool.
“By releasing the tool we want others to improve on it and we hope to inspire further collaboration to create global industry standards for a level playing field, encourage widespread industry adoption of sustainable design practices and have more sustainable products available for the consumer.” said Hannah Jones, Vice President of Nike Sustainable Business and Innovation.
Nike has long been using innovation strategies to advance their R&D, sustainability efforts and consumer engagement. In 1999, the company’s NIKEiD site gave consumers the tools and power to design custom shoes. The company then chose select customer designs to be produced and sold in stores as limited editions.
Earlier this year Nike announced the GreenXchange (GX), a Web-based marketplace where companies including Best Buy and Yahoo! can collaborate and share intellectual property which can lead to new sustainability business models and innovation. Nike committed to placing more than 400 patents on GX for research, demonstrating its belief that the best way to stimulate sustainable innovation is through open innovation.
Nike certainly knows the challenge of tackling sustainability challenges without open innovation. The company spent tens of millions of dollars over 14 years working to manufacture their leading running shoes without the use of the super-potent greenhouse gas that had been key to the design. A team of 60 designers was finally able to solve the puzzle and get the new design to market in 2005.
Additional details on the Environmental Apparel Design Tool can be found on the Nike website.