Earlier this week, Nike released their annual Impact Report, reflecting on the changes and progress they made in 2019. Although the athletic wear brand isn’t perfect (their history is peppered with seriously problematic workforce issues), they have been releasing these kinds of reports for the past two decades to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to transparency.
Every year, Nike’s Report aims to bring their commitments to life, breaking down their social and environmental impact. This year, that meant highlighting the number of women at the VP level, moving closer to their 2025 goal of 100% renewable energy and engaging more of their factories in their employee wellbeing surveys. Along with identifying these achievements, Nike was also willing to acknowledge that there is always more work to do.
While that is likely true—sustainability is a journey, after all—there is still an impressive amount of self-awareness and tangible commitments in Nike’s Impact Report. They say the Report “reflects the principles that guide every decision Nike makes.” They compare their mission to keep working harder and doing more to the goals an athlete sets. All of this adds up to so much more than a typical corporate social responsibility (CSR) report that we sometimes see from other brands.
In the realm of luxury brands, Kering has made CSR a pillar of its strategy in recent years, and is aiming to reduce its environmental footprint by 40% by 2025. Their sustainability assesses the Group’s commitment to ethics, social, environmental and societal responsibility. It also reviews ethical measures, performance and CSR ratings. LVMH also has a CSR approach founded on respect for all people, starting with their employees. They take concrete steps to take care of their people, and then extend that to vulnerable populations outside of the organisation. This Group-wide priority runs through all their Maisons, and acts as a framework for each step they take. Hermès’ policies are a bit more vague, identifying their CSR as the way they integrate social, environmental and economic concerns into its activities, as well as in its interactions with stakeholders.
While all of these actions are commendable, Nike showed us this week that there is a way to irrevocably weave a sustainability strategy into a brand’s operations, and call it something more meaningful: an Impact Report. The company has made it clear that they understand the undeniable link between what they do and the health of people and the planet. Could this set the tone for the future of sustainability strategies, replacing CSR reporting? Will other brands across the industry, from high street to luxury, follow suit? Regardless, it’s important to look to all kinds of brands for inspiration when it comes to tackling the imperative task of implementing sustainability.
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