One product that I know I cannot live without are my Nike running shoes. I wear mine almost every day because of how good they feel on my feet. My Nikes are light, comfortable, stylish and… mostly synthetic. The design of my shoes got me thinking what all went in to making them, like what materials were used, where they came from and how they are impacting the environment every time I take a step in them.
Realistically, the life cycle for my Nikes shoes is about two or two and a half years. This got me thinking what happens to my shoes whenever I quit wearing them, since I don’t want them to end up in landfill to rot away. Nike has used the same thought process and began recycling materials, like rubber, form their old shoes and incorporating it into their new shoes. This recycling has helped Nike become more sustainable by not only reusing parts of old products, but also cutting down on the extraction process of raw materials.
Environmentally, Nike has very lofty goals for sustainable production processes and materials. Their goal for 2020 is to double their productivity while also cutting their environmental impact in half. This might sound impossible, but Nike is taking steps in the right direction to get there. One of the main sustainability goals of Nike is to cut their carbon footprint which is most affected by the production process of their shoes. They are doing this by leading multiple green initiatives to offset their carbon emissions from their factories. They also hope to use renewable energy in all their factories worldwide by 2025, as well as cut back on the number of existing factories they already have. Nike also hopes to extract their resources more sustainably. One way they are doing this is with their leather extraction process, where they refuse to obtain leather form the Amazon biome. Also, all their tanneries they obtain their leather from are certified by the Leather Working Group for sustainability, and 80% of their tanneries have the “gold standard” for leather.
One negative social impact that is a sad reality for nearly every shoe company is outsourcing the manufacturing process to other countries where there are little or no child labor laws. This is clear for Nike since most of their factories are in third world Asian countries like China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. For example, 23% of Nike’s shoe factories are in China, which dwarfs the number of factories in the United States which is 48 total, and that makes up 8% of Nike’s total factories. The factories in these third world countries are subject to Nike’s code of conduct for working conditions which hold factories to high standards in terms of working conditions and pay. However, Nike has faced numerous violations over the years since they have factories worldwide.
Overall, Nike shoes have a heavy impact on the environment, from leather, to carbon emission, and poor working conditions for factory workers. However, Nike has seen what they are doing, and have begun to right the ship. They have taken initiatives to make their factories more eco-efficient, extract their raw materials more sustainably, and improve the working conditions in factories all across the globe.