Nike: Business survival means smart, sustainable decisions

Reputation aside, Nike believes smart business decisions have to be made around sustainability.

LONDON-- Reputation aside, Nike believes smart business decisions have to be made around sustainability.

Calling her firm the "poster child" of everything anti-capitalist and wrong with supply chains in the 1990's, Hannah Jones, VP Sustainable business and innovation at Nike, said that the company is dedicated to reforging itself in light of sustainable resources.

Speaking at the Financial Times Innovate 2012 conference in London, Jones said that being targeted by labor groups so early on did have a silver lining, and has given the firm "peripheral vision" which allows it to see past supply and demand as a way to plan for the future.

Nike's business model was once developed based on the premise of cheap access to an abundance of resources. However, as raw material becomes scarce and the price of sources becomes volatile, business models have to change not because its right, but because its necessary. (The price of cotton has fluctuated 313% in the past two years alone, a challenge for any business).

Saying that "what was once called waste can now be an asset", Jones believes it is important for corporations to not only revolutionize "the world's materials palette" by reassessing the manufacture and usefulness of material, but to use sustainability as a lens for innovative projects.

Nike's reasoning is such: within ten years, the firm expects consumers to demand sustainable products -- while not having to compromise on quality or price. Jones said that not only will consumer trends change, but smart businesses will know that in order to survive, sustainable resources are required.

Business innovation is not only about improving products or services, but it keeps businesses modern and allows them to survive when structures and practices are forced to change. Sustainability may be little more than a note at the bottom of an agenda now, but for firms built on the foundation of finite resources, it will soon become a critical concern.

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