Nike Is Looking Through The Lens of Social Innovation To Improve Our World

Nike released its annual sustainability report this month, which reveals that the brand sees social innovation as central to its good business practice to improve itself as a company and put it to good use for the planet. The report looks into the short, mid-and long-term strategy the company has for the future. It gives us a real insight into how this big brand is thinking and shows that it understands that big businesses will be swept aside by emerging social enterprises unless they start changing their business models and contribute more to society. I am pretty sure this thinking of Nike is reflective of the corporate world right now and how they are viewing the future.

Nike has grown up in the last decade. It used to be brand known for all that was bad about globalisation: paying its workers peanuts; sweatshop conditions; environmental shortcuts and over-priced products. Now, it talks about how it wants that breakthrough moment with its approach to corporate responsibility. It understands that it's about striving for the best, creating value for the business and social innovation for a better a world. It is seizing the opportunity to drive business growth, build deeper consumer and community connections, and create positive social and environmental change.

Nike wants to operate in completely new ways (and is doing so), making sustainability integral to its social innovation and performance. It is using the latest buzz words - 'collaboration'; 'social engagement' and 'transparency'. Crucially, this company is thinking ahead and wants to find solutions to the many natural resources that will become increasingly scarce and which will drive up competition and cost.

To succeed Nike has become a brand obsessed with social innovation. The report says the brand has learnt three specific lessons which have been central to its progress: 1) collaboration is essential and working together creates real, sustainable change; 2) working collaboratively demands transparency, it's a strategic advantage that enables the company to work better with governments, NGOs and other businesses; and 3) sharing innovation does not mean sacrificing a competitive edge, as by sharing breakthroughs with other companies means the impact on the environment becomes more significant.

The most important insight this global brand has gained is that sustainability and social innovation is not merely an-add-on to its core operation. Nike recognises sustainability can positively impact and improve its business and growth potential. From a company that says, 'Just do it' Nike realises it is about 'We can do it' and is working with global players including the United Nations Global Compact initiative to support its principles and reports its carbon data to the Carbon Disclosure Project. Its long-term goals demand disruptive innovation from business, civil society and government and over the past 15 years has moved from an approach of simply reacting to criticisms to pursuing sustainability for its long-term growth. Nike CEO Mark Parker says, "Looking through the creative lens of innovation, we aim to create breakthroughs that improve our world."

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