Nike cuts freshwater use by 30% but admits work to do
Industrial Water Membranes Americas

Nike cuts freshwater use by 30% but admits work to do

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Announcing its FY20 Impact report and 2025 targets, sportswear giant Nike has cut freshwater use by 30% but admits there is much to do to raise the bar on sustainability.

Raising the bar on sustainability

As part of its aim to “raise the bar for sustainability”, sportswear giant Nike has reduced its fresh water use by 30 per cent in some parts of the business but admits the “work is still just the beginning”.

The famous Swoosh brand said it would actively invest in employees, water conservation, reducing its carbon footprint, education and the Black Community.

A total of 29 targets have been developed for the next five years, including "10x amount of finished product waste refurbished, recycled or donated”.

Announcing as part of the company’s FY20 Impact report and 2025 targets, John Donahoe, President & CEO, said that “we used Nike’s scale and influence to raise the bar for sustainability”.

"We’re proud of the successes we’ve seen, but we know the work is still the beginning.”

Referencing the Supplier Climate Action Program, he noted progress including:

  • 100 per cent renewable energy being used in the US and Canada in its owned or operated facilities
  • Nike’s textile dyeing and finishing suppliers reducing freshwater use by 30 per cent
  • Tier 1 finished goods footwear suppliers diverted 99.9 per cent of manufacturing waste from landfill.

“We’re proud of the successes we’ve seen, but we know the work is still just beginning,” said Donahoe.

“We will continue to strive to lower emissions across our key operations, to shrink our product carbon footprint, to accelerate diversity and inclusion across our teams, to enable kids to have access to play and sport. We will always challenge ourselves to do better. Always.”

Five years of water

Nike’s progress to date is measured against five-year, self-imposed targets. Closing out these FY20 targets, Nike said it “undertook a rigorous company-wide effort” to establish Nike’s new five-year roadmap for global impact – the Purpose 2025 Targets.

On the topic of water, Nike said it has the ambition to build a “water-resilient source base” with world-class water efficiency and “innovative wastewater management”.

In FY20, NIKE exceeded its FY20 freshwater target by achieving a 30 per cent reduction. This achievement translates to a cumulative 40 billion litres of freshwater avoided by its suppliers since FY16, the company noted.

With a strategy based on creating awareness, driving commitment, and building capabilities within its supply chain, Nike said it reached its FY20 water reduction target 18 months early.

“Even with the spread of Covid-19 in the second half of FY20, our materials suppliers were able to maintain their water-efficiency gains, demonstrating that our efficiency initiatives have been operationalised and the water savings are real.”

Baseline water risk analysis

Nike required suppliers to assess water-related risks, such as flooding and drought, and develop mitigation plans. As a result, all 13 at-risk facilities that were determined to be high risk have now implemented water-risk mitigation plans.

In FY16, a baseline water risk analysis was performed of its strategic finished goods and material suppliers by leveraging the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas of the World Resources Institute (WRI).

From FY17 to FY20, suppliers operating in regions classified as being at “high” or “extremely high” water risk were further assessed against local conditions. Once validated, they were required to develop mitigation plans aligned with the company’s expectations and ISO 14001 Environmental Management System and Risk Standards.

By the end of FY20, all in-scope suppliers completed water risk mitigation plans.

Overcoming scepticism on wastewater recycling

Interestingly, in its FY20 Impact report Nike said when it was encouraging material vendors to adopt wastewater recycling through its Water Minimum Program, it was met with "some resistance and scepticism”.

"Encouraging material vendors to adopt wastewater recycling was met with some resistance and scepticism.”

To overcome this, the company gave monthly feedback on each vendor facility’s performance, including its freshwater use ranking when compared to global and regional peers.

“This encouraged more vendors to include wastewater recycling as part of their strategic plans without prompting. Some vendors began to ask us for input on their high-level, long-term water conservation strategy, and others for detailed engineering reviews of technical proposals they were considering installing,” noted the company.

Nike said since FY16, its vendors have avoided using a cumulative 40 billion litres of freshwater – 12 billion from the organisation’s freshwater footprint, the rest from other brands, including its competitors, who source from the same suppliers.

As previously reported by Aquatech Online, only just over half of Nike’s suppliers met wastewater quality requirements, according to its recently released FY2019 Impact Report.

A case study on Changshu, China

Nike referenced one case study involving materials vendor, Formosa Taffeta Changshu, which was near the bottom of its global ranking in terms of freshwater efficiency.

Considering all freshwater use (rather than just for dyeing and finishing), its FY16 baseline was 205 litres of fresh water per kilogram of the dyed and finished fabric. This made it one of the least efficient water users in the scope of this target.

"By the end of FY19, a wastewater recycling system had been installed...culminating in an immediate improvement in freshwater efficiency.”

After this was brought to the facility's attention, it committed to making a change.

By the end of FY19, a wastewater recycling system had been installed with commercially available ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis, culminating in an immediate improvement in freshwater efficiency.

By the end of FY20, freshwater use was 119 litres per kilogram, a 42 per cent reduction from the baseline.

“Not only did Formosa Taffeta significantly reduce its freshwater use, but the facility was also fully compliant with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Wastewater Guideline – an achievement which many in the textile industry still do not believe is possible, as increased water efficiency results in more concentrated wastewater,” concluded Nike.

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