Nike Uses Circular Design to Create a Better Future from Waste

Brillia Running Stadium in Tokyo is made from Nike grind rubber. Photo from Nike

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Brillia Running Stadium in Tokyo is made from Nike grind rubber. Photo from Nike

Nike Uses Circular Design to Create a Better Future from Waste

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Nike has invested a lot in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and more sustainable innovations. We are seeing results from their efforts.

It aims to make a positive impact on communities by making its products more inclusive to promote social mobility, gender equality and a healthier lifestyle. We may be familiar with Nike’s Flyknit recycled running shoes or product line for Muslim wear.

Did you also know that granules made from recycled athlete footwear, surplus manufacturing scraps and plastic bottles have been used to make not only Nike apparel and footwear but also to construct surfaces in sports facilities and playgrounds?

The Nike Grind Program was launched in 1992 as an initiative to reduce waste from used shoes being thrown away. It now recycles waste into useful materials. Nike grind materials are reconstituted from used materials, shoes or manufacturing scrap including rubber, foam, leather, textiles and thermoplastics. The constructed material ‘Nike grind’ is then used by companies to make everything from grip tape for skateboards to rubber flooring for commercial buildings or carpet padding.

The running track at Brillia Running Stadium in Tokyo is a training facility for both Olympians and Paralympians. It is made with ecofriendly vulcanized ‘Nike grind’ rubber layers to maximize shock absorption by ‘Mondo’ who specializes in sports facilities.

The company Playtop creates outdoor cushioned playgrounds with Nike grind materials like this one in Madureira Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo credit: Nike Grind

“For us, sustainability was very important, but it was not our only concern. We built this playground in a neighbourhood that didn’t have places for kids to play. So along with being thoughtful about the environment, we wanted to create an inclusive place for these kids, and one that’s tough enough to stand up to rain, sun and a lot of hard-charging playtime. This surface gave us everything we were looking for, in a brightly coloured package.” Mauro Bonelli, Chief Project Engineer Madureira Park.

Other examples include the gym floor at Hurley Surf Club in San Sebastian, Yigang primary school sports ground in Shanghai and Man Kiu Association primary school in Hong Kong.  

Pigalle Duperré outdoor basketball court in Paris, France. A colourful, fun design inspiring play that is all-weather and safe. Photo credit: Nike Grind

Innovation can be a powerful competitive advantage. Consumers are wising up to how brands conduct their business. We buy brands that align with our values. It is no longer enough to be trendy or to simply offer fast fashion at rock bottom prices. Companies are aware that negative reputation and publicity can quickly damage a brand’s image.

The popularity of ‘athleisure’; casual, athletic fashion-orientated streetwear, have seen competitors like Nike, Adidas and Lululemon fight for their share of this market. Even fashion giants Top Shop and H&M have launched sportswear lines, competing for market share of the ‘sports inspired’ fashion-conscious consumers.

Nike has leveraged on their consumer’s awareness. It took on the role of social innovator to appeal to their audience and beat the competition.

Corporate social innovation refers to companies that try to find sustainable solutions in response to social and environmental problems. Nike’s Move to Zero initiative aims to move towards zero carbon and zero waste. Its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 70% and carbon reduction by 60% by 2025.

Companies adapt to their environment. Those who have established good feedback mechanisms continuously adjust their offerings and create value for their customers. What this shows is that our choices as consumers can make a positive impact.

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