Nike, NASA on a quest for more sustainable materials

Nike's Hannah Jones

Nike's Hannah Jones said the sustainable materials market could be huge for the company.

Nike Inc. is working with the brightest governmental minds — NASA, for one — on an initiative to create more sustainable materials.

Nike is a member of a group called LAUNCH alongside NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State. The company assembled 150 materials specialists, designers, academics, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and NGOs this week to study innovations and spur collaboration in the green manufacturing industry.

“Innovation is most powerful when it’s activated by collaboration between unlikely partners, coupled with investment dollars, marketing know-how and determination,“ said Mark Parker, Nike’s CEO and president, in a release. “Now is the time for big, bold solutions. Incremental change won’t get us where we need to go fast enough or at a scale that makes a difference.”

Through a unique, multi-year incubation process, LAUNCH will uncover innovations in sustainable materials that can have a major impact on people and the planet.

During this week’s summit, group members also unveiled the LAUNCH 2013 Challenge Statement, termed “an open call for innovation to transform the system of producing fabrics.” LAUNCH’s leaders will select 10 product innovations in August and enroll participants in an immersion program that will steer them toward “capital, creativity and capacity.”

Nike estimated that some 150 billion garments were produced around the world in 2010. By 2015, the global apparel industry is expected to produce more than 400 billion square meters of fabric every year. That’s enough to cover the state of California.

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