Nike Boosts Sustainability of Textiles With New Swiss Partner

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A Niketown store in downtown San Francisco. Nike has hundreds of suppliers that provide materials to contracted manufacturers that make Nike products. Close

A Niketown store in downtown San Francisco. Nike has hundreds of suppliers that provide... Read More

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Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A Niketown store in downtown San Francisco. Nike has hundreds of suppliers that provide materials to contracted manufacturers that make Nike products.

Bloomberg BNA -- Nike is partnering with a Swiss company to increase the sustainability of textiles used in its products, which are made in nearly 800 factories worldwide.

Nike will provide its suppliers with screening tools made by the company, called bluesign technologies, that will allow them to select more sustainable dyes, detergents, and chemicals for use in the textile manufacturing process. The partnership was announced March 18.

Other brands using bluesign tools include Lululemon, North Face, Patagonia, REI, and Black Diamond.

Bluesign is respected in the industry and “offers deep technical expertise and assurance to complement Nike's in-house expertise,” Nike spokeswoman Delwyn Hudson said in a statement emailed March 19.

Nike has hundreds of suppliers that provide materials to contracted manufacturers that make Nike products, Hudson said. The agreement with bluesign provides Nike suppliers with access to a list of dyes, finishes, and detergents that have already been tested and meet Nike sustainability requirements.

Nike suppliers will have access to two tools through the partnership. One tool, the bluesign® bluefinder, provides suppliers a list of pre-screened and more sustainable dye systems, detergents, and chemicals to use when manufacturing textiles. It also enables suppliers to manage their use of restricted substances and increase their water and energy efficiency.

The other tool, the bluesign® blueguide, lists more than 30,000 textile materials made using approved chemicals at facilities that have undergone assessment. “These tools and data are important because of the large amount of water and chemicals used in the textile manufacturing process,” Hudson said.

"You cannot change in a few months. This is really something we have to work on for the next few years."

Peter Waeber, chief executive officer of bluesign technologies, told BNA March 19 the company audits textile mills. It studies the chemicals used in raw materials, the manufacturing process, and how the facilities manage air and water emissions, he said. It takes about 212 months to collect the information on energy and water use and consumption in each facility, Waeber said. The company uses a full year of data to make an assessment and gives the facility feedback to help it improve its performance.

The partnership with bluesign is part of Nike's goal to eliminate the use of hazardous substances in its products, according to the company.

“This is a good start,” Waeber said. The textile supply chain is very complex, he said. “You cannot change in a few months. This is really something we have to work on for the next few years,” he said.

The first step is providing suppliers access to bluesign's data, and the next step is up to Nike, Waeber said.

Nike introduced a restricted substances list in 2001 listing chemical restrictions for every material and component used in its apparel, equipment, and footwear. The company also has a manufacturing-restricted-substances list that lists chemicals that may not be used in Nike contract-manufacturing facilities. Suppliers are required to comply with the restricted substances lists in order to continue doing business with the company, Hudson said.

Nike also set a goal along with other leading apparel and footwear companies to eliminate the discharge of hazardous chemicals in their supply chains by 2020. “This is a really hard goal to reach,” Waeber said.

Nike also has published sustainable chemistry guidance encouraging suppliers to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals in products and manufacturing processes. The partnership with bluesign is intended to help suppliers follow this guidance, Hudson said.

“We want to encourage materials suppliers to seek out better chemistry from the outset,” she said.

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