As one of our most widely used materials, cotton is fundamental to our business. Yet conventional cotton farming can come with a huge water footprint, high pesticide use and pressing social challenges. In fact, more than half of Nike’s water footprint comes from cotton farming. We knew this was one of our biggest levers to meet our ambitious sustainability goals. So, we dedicated ourselves to finding solutions in the cotton industry for the business, for the supply chain and for the environment.
We began using organic cotton in our products back in 1998. In 2002, Nike became a founding member of the Organic Exchange, and we’re consistently in the top four buyers of organic cotton in the industry.* But at Nike, there is no finish line. In 2011, we embraced a long-term, company-wide strategy publicly committing to source 100% of our cotton more sustainably by 2020. The major challenge is meeting this ambitious goal with zero compromise to performance, quality or cost.
After a cross-functional task team researched the options thoroughly, Nike’s optimal sustainable cotton portfolio was identified: certified organic; recycled cotton; and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a holistic agricultural standard system helping farmers use less water and fewer chemicals, all while improving yields, profitability, and livelihoods.
Recycling cotton fabric waste back into beautiful Nike fleece was innovated by our Young Athletes developers and a strategic supplier in 2012. This program’s success has reached many of our core fleece products, and we’ve been ranked as the fourth largest user of recycled cotton volume.* We also continue to increase the volume of certified organic cotton used in Nike apparel each year, and maintain the #4 spot there as well.
Since 2013, Nike’s team—representing sustainability, materials, manufacturing and sourcing—has been working to convert Nike’s balance of conventional cotton to BCI. With this broad team championing the initiative, we have achieved large-scale conversions to BCI across Nike Apparel, Socks and Converse Footwear and Apparel.
Today, over 55% of our cotton is certified organic, recycled or BCI. And most importantly, we saved an estimated 25 billion liters of water and over 92 thousand kgs of pesticides from our supply chain last year. With all our major cotton vendors on board—sustainable cotton is becoming the new, higher standard.
Working with our supply chain to certify 100% of our cotton to organic, BCI or recycled standards is just the first step. This 10-year process we will complete by 2020, ensures we are sourcing the best portfolio of cotton available.
We are already working on two channels that’ll take us the next step towards Nike’s moonshot goal of cutting our environmental impact in half.
Modernize and expand cotton textile recycling, and further develop optimal blends at scale.
Address water risk by further improving farming standards and strengthening the water basins through robust collaborations like the Better Cotton Initiative and other partners.
We aim to be a leader by using our influence and reach to help drive the cotton industry toward sustainability and helping others on their journeys.