Nike logo - courtesy of Nike, inc.

As for strategies and research in the field of sustainability, sports brands have also been doing their part for some time; today I would like to talk about Nike because for me it was a real and pleasant surprise to discover that the American colossus, the world’s leading manufacturer of sportswear accessories and clothing, has been implementing the Reuse-A-Shoe program, which collects old and worn-out sneakers, since the early 1990s, to turn into Nike Grind, a material then used by leading companies in the production of high-performance sports surfaces such as tennis and basketball courts and athletics tracks, as well as by Nike itself for innovative products.

Nike shoes

Reuse-A-Shoe is the result of a strategy aimed at reducing the company’s environmental footprint, together with the quantity of shoes that end up in landfills; it is estimated that Nike collects over 1.5 million pairs of shoes to be recycled each year, as well as thousands of tons of pre-consumer manufacturing scrap material. And no matter how old or used they are, indeed, the principle behind the program is that if shoes can still be used, better then donate them to communities or individuals, otherwise Reuse-A-Shoe is an excellent alternative to landfill.

There are two ways to deliver the used shoes: or bring them to a Reuse-A-Shoe collection point in a Nike store (of course, check to see if there is a point before going with the material to be delivered, (excluding stores in Switzerland, Canary Island, Russia, Turkey, and Croatia) or ship them to Nike recycling facility, the European one is located in Meerhout, Belgium but Nike does not pay for delivery costs, so it is advisable to bring them to a store, if possible. In any case, at this link you will find all the info, including the exact address of the Belgian facility.

And then there is a real challenge that from this year is going to add to the environmental sustainability program that Nike has been carrying out for some time; this is the ‘Nike Material Recovery Challenge‘, a competition designed for all those who wish to contribute to the development of new technologies to transform old shoes into innovative materials, even starting from the same Nike Grind mentioned above. So a competition open to designers but also to engineers who must submit the application by 1 May next; by August of this year the winner of the most innovative innovation will be known, which will bring a prize of $ 50,000 home, in addition to a collaboration with Nike for the development of the winning proposal.

Nike is also part of the Textile Exchange, one of the most important non-profit organizations that promote responsible and sustainable development in the textile industry at an international level; in the last annual conference, held last October, the sports brand has pledged, together with 35 other brands, to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.

But since this is a blog that talks about sustainability at 360°, I can not remind that Nike is also one of the brands that has often been cited, especially in the past, for the exploitation of child labor, as well as for the production methods in overseas factories with which it has commercial contracts. The latest survey on the Observer, dating back to last year, revealed unhealthy conditions in the Cambodian supplying factories, which caused mass fainting among the workers, not only for Nike but also for Puma and Asics. When contacted by the newspaper, Nike then assured that it had installed cooling systems and air conditioning, after an audit found temperatures above Nike’s code of conduct limits up to 30C. But even the use of chemicals is among the causes of more or less serious illness.

So, here are the two sides of the coin of a global and beloved global brand, which if really wants to win the challenge of perfect sustainability, as well as recycling, innovation and competitions, must have as priority the welfare of those who make all their products days without being able to benefit from it.

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