Nike Won’t Green It
By Tom Ryan
Nike Inc. is one of the most eco-conscious
companies in the world but you wouldn’t know it from its marketing efforts.
While the brand is about being fast, excelling and persevering as well
as being the coolest kid on the block, it’s not about being green.
“Nike has always been about winning,” Dean
Crutchfield, an independent branding consultant in New York, told BusinessWeek. “How
is sustainability relevant to its brand?”
Since its Reuse-A-Shoe footwear recycling
program was launched in 1993, sustainability has been a key focus and the
company is regularly praised by eco-groups for those efforts.
In October 2008, Nike again raised its eco-goals
in with the debut of the latest products under Nike Considered Design.
The program sets strict standards for using eco-conscious materials, reducing
waste in factories and cutting toxins. In Spring 2009, 15 percent of Nike
footwear met “Considered” standards.
Nike also set ambitious goals to have 100
percent of Nike footwear meet baseline Considered standards by 2011, all
apparel by 2015, and all equipment by 2020. Once these benchmarks are reached,
waste in Nike’s supply chain will have been reduced by 17 percent and environmentally
preferred materials increased by 20 percent.
But Nike remains mum to the public about its
environmental efforts and its reluctance to spread its green message comes
despite eco-efforts being regularly touted in advertising by the likes
of General Electric and Wal-Mart. Eco-messages also drive many campaigns
for competitors, such as Patagonia, Timberland, and Columbia. Many of these
campaigns are designed to inspire consumers to be more eco-conscious and
to make a difference in the world.
Nike executives told BusinessWeek that
eco-conscious and “do-good, feel-good” marketing doesn’t fit the ethos
of the brand. They
said they learned this lesson themselves when the company launched a line
of eco-friendly walking boots, likewise called “Considered,” in 2005. Made
with brown hemp fibers and an earthy look, critics called the $110 shoes “Air
said the shoe design detracted from its high-tech image. The line was soon
removed from the market after poor sales.
Lorrie Vogel, who oversees Nike’s green business
practices, said the lesson for Nike was that its green efforts should continue,
but its customers shouldn’t be able to tell.
“We want to do more and say less,” said Ms.
Do you think green marketing would be detrimental to a brand like Nike?
Is Nike missing an opportunity by not promoting its green efforts?