Nike's most exciting new product last year wasn't a LeBron James sneaker (although the 11s are pretty sweet). It was an app called Making that helps companies measure the environmental impact of using different materials--which made up approximately 60% of Nike's footprint and spurred the creation of the app. "Before, if you asked, 'Which is better, hemp or cotton?' nobody had that at hand," says Hannah Jones, Nike's VP of sustainable business and innovation. "We created this enormous database of materials and turned it into an index for the entire industry." Released last summer, the app evolved out of Nike's push to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals in the creation of its products by 2020 and has been incorporated into the curriculum at two design schools and downloaded in 23 countries.
The company also expanded its ambitious Launch program, which it created with NASA and the State Department. Hundreds of key players in the materials ecosystem come together to discover, incubate, and accelerate companies developing innovative materials to be used on a wide scale to address global issues in the space. "Sustainability can't be just a single product line," says Jones. "It has to be across everything we do."
[Illustration by Ollanski]