Sustainable business evolution at Nike

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I spent a very enjoyable few hours this week with Hannah Jones from Nike.

We taped what I thought was a fascinating podcast which you can find here.

As usual when I meet a genuine change agent, I found it very hard to keep the length down to the usual 10-15 minutes.

It’s no co-incidence that my podcasts with three of the most interesting interviewees I’ve met in the last couple of years (Mike Barry at M&S, John Sauven at Greenpeace and Hannah) are all around the 30 minute mark.

There’s so much to talk about when you discuss real progress.

Hannah and I discussed Nike’s headline targets, where they are failing, and succeeding.

(I love talking about missed objectives: only because that’s how we learn, refine and improve our work. Success teaches us little by comparison, except how to be complacent)

We also discussed how Hannah talks to her board, supply chain managers and buyers, and most importantly, the work Nike is doing with suppliers to help them run better businesses.

(Note to anyone reading this: IF you are not engaging suppliers on ways to improve their businesses, they won’t become more sustainable, I’m afraid that’s a fact. Tick boxes are just tick boxes, nothing else. If you are in the US, click here  to meet companies that are starting to do this. If you are in Europe, go here.)

Nike refers to business process, design and operations improvement as innovation. That’s what it is, and it’s about time more companies started seeing that way. Efficiency is dull by comparison. What you call things really does count.

Perhaps the most important point she makes is the need for big companies to decide what to compete on, and what to collaborate on. This goes through design to manufacturing and supply chains and even distribution and even sales perhaps.

Mike Barry at M&S has also made this point for a many years. There’s a lot more conversation about this now. Clearly industry associations will need to play a major role here, and possibly knock some heads together at some point. An evolution of their role (growth of a spine) is perhaps also needed.

Finally we touched on the consumer angle and the evolving expectations of an average Nike customer: A 17 year old.

Hannah’s points about the potential collaboration between NGOs, companies and consumers to help define what we mean by ‘good’ are well worth serious consideration.

Lots more on what they are doing at Nike’s Facebook page and www.nikebetterworld.com

Here’s the link to the podcast again.

The key takeaway if you don’t listen to the pod and forget most of what this post says:

Systems change means B2B and B2C sustainability innovation through collaboration.

As simple, and as very complex, as that. 

1 Comment

  1. Linda

    She was very inspiring to listen to I thought. I liked the idea with SB and I, and how they had really built up Nike around that. She was very honest about the fact they hadn't reached set-up goals and that some had to be alternate, which is realistic and down-to-earth. Something that showed their innovative way of thinking was definitely the joint responsibility to ensure good work conditions through a team with different skills and that they focused on what can get good instead of focus on whats wrong. That must improve the team spirit through the whole supply chain.

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