How Circularity Drives Sustainable Innovation at Nike


Like the athletes* it serves, Nike is always in pursuit of progress. And in our era of climate crisis, progress means creating products and methods that have less environmental impact, and eventually, no impact or even a positive impact — a circular future.

To make that future a reality, Nike’s circular vision is rooted in bold, science-based targets built on more than 30 years of exploring ways to reduce impact on the environment. This deep commitment to sustainability is driven by the belief that protecting the future of sport means no less than protecting the future of the planet.

Why a Circular System Is the Ultimate Challenge

Imagine an industrial value chain — that includes product design, materials, manufacturing, shipping, retail and product take-back — with no beginning or end. Waste is a main source for new materials, virgin materials are bio-based, and the manufacturing process itself creates zero carbon emissions. Product is created not only without impact on the environment, its creation uses waste that would have gone to a landfill. And every shoe, shirt, short and pant is designed with the future in mind, anticipating how it will be broken apart or transformed into something still valuable at the end of its useful life.

This is a true circular system, and it’s NIKE, Inc.’s long-term aim.

To get to that goal, the company views designing for circularity as the sum of many deliberate, interconnected choices. “By focusing on progress and not perfection and by making better choices, we embrace the chance to reconsider our craft in hope that it forms a groundswell of change,” says John Hoke, Nike Chief Design Officer.

That means sourcing better materials and rethinking design methods, manufacturing processes, and how Nike gets products back from athletes to refurbish or recycle them.

If it sounds overwhelming, it’s because it is. And even with an enterprise of 75,000-plus employees and global partners working together, Nike doesn’t have everything figured out yet. But it knows how to progress forward. “We are galvanizing and empowering everyone to make smarter changes, and we’re building diverse, inclusive teams to drive relentless innovation for athletes and the planet,” says Noel Kinder, Nike Chief Sustainability Officer. “That step-by-step, holistic approach is the key to keep moving toward a circular future,” says Kinder. “And the creative innovations it yields are in full swing.”

How a Circular Vision Transforms the CompanyWhat’s Next

“We’re constrained only by the pace that we and our industry can dream up materials to move us farther,” says Kinder. “How quickly can we develop additional alternatives to leather, alternatives to cotton? How can we work with our key supply-chain partners to create and mandate manufacturing methods that facilitate lower-carbon or lower-energy production? Right now, materials account for 70 percent of our carbon footprint. This is one of the reasons we’re investing heavily in the materials research and innovation space — we know it’s the single biggest unlock to us achieving our goals.”

Already, Nike has definitive numbers from its 2021 fiscal year to show its success: Recycled polyester now makes up 38 percent of Nike footwear’s total polyester usage, double what was used in the 2020 fiscal year; Nike recycled more than 55 percent of its manufacturing scrap across footwear and apparel, thanks to increased demand from local recycling markets and global Nike Grind customers; and the company donated more than 1 million items through its donation channels, double the number from 2020.

To be sure, there are real and myriad challenges to building a circular system and economy. Global logistics are a complex web. Recycling isn’t perfect. And consumers need accurate, easy-to-access information so they feel empowered about what circularity is and how they can contribute.

Still, Nike believes driving toward a truly circular system is its role and responsibility. With each stride, it builds the innovation and the operational and collaborative muscles needed to solve the challenges. Driven by the ingenuity and grit of Nike’s teams, the company is committed to keep moving toward this circular future.

*If you have a body, you’re an athlete. 


Inspiring a Planet-Protecting Ethos Move to Zero is NIKE, Inc.’s journey toward zero carbon and zero waste to help protect the future of sport. It’s foundational for realizing the company’s vision of circularity, and it works to both minimize the company’s environmental footprint as a business and maximize avenues for positive impact as a brand. Move to Zero includes commitments such as eliminating single-use plastics; investing in new material- development programs, which diverts an average of 1 billion plastic bottles annually from landfills and waterways (and helps to make beautiful football kits in the process); and creating renewable-energy-powered logistics centers, a journey that is both marathon and sprint.


Pandemic drives surge in use of digital health solutions across Africa

Across Africa, there has been an exponential rise in the number of people engaging with digital health services through their smartphones, creating vast potential for countries to deliver access to healthcare digitally. This was a key finding of Vodacom’s e-health policy paper released today as part of the Africa.connected campaign. Based on research and personal insights from recipients across the continent whose lives have been changed because of these services, this paper tells the story of a continent on the cusp of digital health transformation.

The campaign, which was launched earlier this year by Vodacom, Vodafone and Safaricom, aims to accelerate economic recovery across the continent by helping drive digital inclusion. The first of a series of six policy papers, the e-health paper provides key insights around the role of technology in elevating the healthcare sector – a focus area of development that has been brought to the fore by COVID-19.

Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub says: “In many ways, the pandemic has also opened our eyes to new possibilities in the healthcare space. Our ability to deliver on the promise of digital solutions at scale presents enormous opportunity – not only when it comes to the reach of healthcare services, but also to dramatically improved health outcomes at decreased costs.”

 A sector gearing up for transformation

The report reflects a healthcare sector on the verge of transformation. While Governments are accelerating formal digital health strategies – 41 out of 54 African countries have a digital health strategy in place – consumers are dramatically increasing their engagement with digital health services via their smartphones. It is forecast that by 2025, smartphone reach in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by almost 70%.

As a result, informal use of digital healthcare solutions has increased, with 41% of internet users across Africa regularly using their mobile phones to search for health information. Digital health apps have also seen increased usage during the pandemic. According to Apptopia, the Byon8 app, which offers access to online doctors and symptom check-ups, has shown on average a 40% increase in engagement since March 2021. Growing numbers of private sector players are also entering the sector to meet this demand.

Though the rise in engagement with informal healthcare systems is creating new opportunity, there is also significant risk in circumventing formal systems. Concerns range from privacy and the security of personal data to medical misinformation, which is a very real threat when it comes to social media. The report confirms that 69% of South Africans and 55% of Kenyans report that they’ve seen information that is obviously false or untrue on social media.

Perhaps most importantly, informal systems can exacerbate inequality – partly because they preclude users with low levels of digital literacy and partly because they leave the burden of cost with the end user or healthcare worker.

A key question posed by the study is how countries across the continent can leverage the rise in usage of digital health solutions and integrate them into the formal health system. It suggests three steps in resolving this challenge.

 The call for more public-private partnerships

To avoid the risks associated with healthcare workers and citizens going outside of formal systems, the architecture of a national health ecosystem must be led by Government. As such, the report calls for more partnerships between the public sector and digital health providers on formal systems.  From there, Government can more effectively manage the digital health ecosystem, encouraging the integration of effective start-ups into formal systems and regulating those that could cause harm and spread misinformation.

Lastly, success will depend on the sector’s ability to leverage the informal within the formal. Given the pervasive use of social media, apps and internet searches, it’s necessary to find a way of using these tools safely within the national health ecosystem.

Vodacom’s Mum & Baby service in South Africa is a good example of how this can work successfully. Mum & Baby provides free information about pregnancy and childcare via mobile devices for parents-to-be. The service includes regular text messages, articles, tutorials, videos, an immunisation calendar, and a pregnancy medicine checker.  This service has proved particularly helpful in rural areas where families often battle to access health centres.

“The vision behind the Africa.connected campaign – to help close the digital divide in Africa’s key economic sectors – is ambitious and we understand that we cannot achieve this alone. While this paper explores many of the challenges and opportunities associated with digital health solutions, it underscores the necessity of partnerships between the public and private sectors in driving critical outcomes.  We must ‘meet in the middle’, integrating formal and informal digital health systems to harness the current rise in digital health engagement. It is our efforts now, working together to propel digital inclusion, which will determine Africa’s future.” – concludes Joosub.

GMV drives aeronautics AI

The European Defence Agency (EDA) has awarded GMV the SAFETERM and AI-GNCAir projects

SAFETERM uses computer vision techniques to enhance flight termination systems and procedures for Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance RPASS

AI-GNCAir studies the takeup of artificial intelligence in guidance, navigation and control for aerial applications

Over the last decade artificial intelligence (AI) buffs have developed new algorithms and learning strategies that have ushered in what has come to be dubbed the fourth industrial revolution. AI and machine learning (ML) take up is therefore now booming in many sectors, and the aeronautics sector, thanks to the technology multinational GMV’s expertise, is no exception.

In this overall context the European Defence Agency (EDA) has awarded GMV two projects: SAFETERM and AI-GNCAir, two of the most advanced initiatives being carried out by GMV in this field.

SAFETERM’s purpose is to improve the flight termination procedures of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) RPASs.

Under this overarching goal its main remit is to increase the general safety level in emergency situations involving multiple failures including C2 datalink loss, i.e. without remote pilot intervention. In this situation it would switch to safe, alternative landing areas by means of computer vision (CV). This involves an extremely complex task that represents a huge advance on traditional image-processing techniques.

Amongst all the possible CV applications, SAFETERM is based on area recognition: what areas does the image show and where are they? In this project, another of EDA’s goals is to weigh up the challenges of using AI in aviation. Can AI powered functionality be developed for reala avionics hardware and software? This leads to another important aspect of the project related to the certification and standardization support activities. GMV is currently a member of EUROCAE WG114 – SAE G34: a joint standardization initiative to support the artificial intelligence revolution in aeronautics, especially in safety critical systems.

Artificial Intelligence in Guidance, Navigation and Control for Aerial Applications (AI-GNCAIR) studies the takeup of artificial intelligence in guidance, navigation and control for aerial applications.

Led by GMV and carried out in collaboration with the Telecommunications and Information Processing Research Center of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Centro de Investigación en Procesado de la Información y Telecomunicaciones de la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid: UPM-IPTC), AI-GNCAIR sets out to recommend a generic GNC architecture for the safe use of AI-based algorithms in the aeronautics sector. The second phase will involve a practical-case simulation to compare the new algorithms’ performance against that of traditional data fusion techniques.

AI-GNCAIR forms part of EDA’s strategic research agenda under CapTech GNC, which studies how to integrate AI into GNC systems and the necessary roadmaps to close the EU’s technology gaps.

Some of the standout features of data management and sensor readings for navigation tasks are: security, preventing any tampering with the readings: integrity, to ensure and monitor calculation-flow data; and availability, to ensure data flows are never cut off. AI algorithms have to pick up any signal interference, incorrect sensor readings and even forecast any missing data due to the above circumstances.

Some of the fields AI-GNCAir is focusing on are robust data acquisition, efficient data-fusion protocols, data-fusion computation complexity management and dynamic sensor selection to ensure unbroken availability.

AI and ML are generic terms embracing a huge variety of data-optimization, control and processing techniques applicable to practically any sector or system. Aerial vehicles could benefit from this advanced technology, guaranteeing greater autonomy and safety and allowing human operators to input higher-level information and exert greater supervision.