In February 2010 Nike presented the new jerseys worn by the national teams of Brazil, Portugal, the Netherlands, and USA, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, and Slovenia at the World Cup. World leading players like Ronaldo, Robinho and Ji-Sung Park will take to the pitch in South Africa wearing the Nike jerseys “for increased performance with less environmental impact”. The national team kits represent an important step in the process to make Nike products more sustainable. They are made entirely from recycled polyester. Each jersey is produced from up to eight recycled plastic bottles. Waste materials are converted into new products of better quality, which is also referred to as “upcycling”. Nike’s fabric suppliers sourced discarded plastic bottles from Japanese and Taiwanese landfill sites and then melted them down to produce new yarn that was ultimately converted to fabric for the jerseys. This process saves raw materials and reduces energy consumption by up to 30 percent compared to manufacturing virgin polyester.
The environmental benefit is combined with conventional buying criteria such as design, comfort, and performance to create ‘motive alliances’ (see pages 166-167 in Sustainability Marketing). At the press conference Charlie Denson, President of the Nike Brand announced: “We are equipping athletes with newly designed uniforms that not only look great and deliver performance benefits, but are also made with recycled materials, creating less impact on our environment.”
The launch of the jerseys entirely made from recycled bottles is part of Nike’s journey towards sustainability, which started with the bad publicity regarding sweatshop labour in the 1990s. Since then, Nike has come a long way, including the Code of Conduct for suppliers and the CSR programme “Let me play” for community-based sports initiatives which gives excluded youth around the world access to sports to enhance their quality of life. These set the stage for sustainable design and development. The new Nike jersey is not a one-time shot, but the result of continuous efforts in the field of “Design for the Environment” (DFE): Back in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics Nike already introduced the first marathon singlet, which was partly made from recycled bottles. Ten years later the jerseys are made of 100% recycled materials, without sacrificing style, comfort, and performance. It is typical of Nike to use world events like the Olympics and the World Cup to get maximum attention and reach a global audience.