BEAVERTON, Oregon—Nike wants its shoes to take a big step toward sustainability.
The global sportswear brand is seeking to reduce the "significant" overall environmental impacts of the rubber, foam and adhesive materials used in it shoes, it said in its Impact Report 2020 issued in March.
Nike used around 112,000 metric tons of rubber in fiscal 2020, placing it among the top five materials used by volume, alongside cotton, polyester, corrugate/paper and EVA foam.
Nike said its focus is on reducing "waste and carbon in the materials and methods of making footwear bottom units, especially around midsole foam and outsole rubber."
Despite reducing material waste and expanding renewable energy, the company missed its five-year carbon-reduction goals to 2020 in part, due to "shifts to more complex materials and product designs."
To meet its 2025 targets, Nike is "pulling together with surgical focus on our biggest challenges—and our biggest opportunities: sustainable materials, renewable energy, and energy efficiency."
Materials account for 70 percent of the company's carbon footprint, so Nike is "accelerating R&D around sustainable materials and exploring opportunities to bring low-carbon alternatives to market at scale."
Reviewing sustainability initiatives in 2020, Nike said its European logistics campus and China logistics center continued to perform at 100 percent landfill diversion.
In Europe, these efforts were helped by the refurbishment of a 15-year-old Nike Grind facility. The project has increased capacity of the unit—which grinds scrap rubber, foam and other shoe materials into granular recyclate—by over 20 percent .
In Greater China, a new basketball court in Beijing was created using Nike Grind materials from a Chinese distribution center—representing a total of 45,000 pairs of recycled shoes.
Another Chinese example involved the use of reground shoe-sole rubber in flooring, benches and fixtures in China Nike Sport stores.
In North America, meanwhile, a new "grind" machine at a Nike reverse logistics distribution center converted defective and post-consumer footwear back into its material for use in new products.
In fiscal 2020, the unit produced 131 tons of rubber, 135 tons of foam, and 252 tons of textile fluff from end-of-life footwear, the report said.
On the product front, the company has initiated a "move to zero journey," employing circular design principles in the development of its latest Air Max footwear.
Billed as delivering Nike's most sustainable shoes to date, the range includes products made with at least 55 percent recycled content by weight.
Features include the use of a TPU on the heel clip and toe tip containing about 60 percent recycled materials, and an outsole incorporating Nike Grind material.
A simplified upper helps minimize material waste in the tooling with at least 20 percent recycled content by weight, Nike said.