The Considered Team acts as the product development arm of product responsibility for Nike and acts as an in-house R&D centre and advisory centre for more sustainable products. When we talk about considered today we are saying: Consider your choices, consider your impact.

Our group was reorganised about a year and a half ago. There were two groups; we used to be called the footwear sustainability group and the apparel sustainability group and now there is also Considered. My group works on educating, inspiring and creating a sustainable product and business model.

Areas of focus are waste, chemistry and design. Since my area is on environmentally preferred materials, a lot of what I work on also covers waste, chemistry and design. All our category teams are evaluated within the business on how sustainable are the products they are producing?

Nike Considered was actually launched in 2005 and [indicating a performance shoe for kayakers] this was a line of product that looks somewhat sustainable, in that it has a lot of neutral colours, and a lot less material. A lot of environmental thought went into producing these shoes.

This particular line of shoes was based on a small consumer insight with a very targeted consumer. There was actually a website that communicated about this product. One of the key points on the website was about the leather and it was yet another example of a product team asking what can you tell us about the leather? We struggled because there was nothing on an industry level that we thought the consumer would understand.

This product was launched and it got a lot of people very excited. Even though we had been doing a lot of work for years around sustainability, this was the first time that so much thought had gone into a branded product. Nike were inspired by it and wanted to apply it across the company.

If you look at Nike Considered today and that performance shoe and ask what makes it a better product, nothing about the shoe screams that a lot of environmental thought went into making the shoe a better product. However, I can give you a break down and illustrate a lot of examples that went into it that makes this a better product and shows that a lot of environmental thought went into it.

And that is what Nike are trying to do right now: Infuse the Considered philosophy throughout all of our products.

One of the things we are always trying to do is fully understand our footprint at the outset, which is not an easy task. We look at materials, the chemicals that go into the materials, how much adhesives we are using, and how much waste we are generating.

This is an ongoing project that we are always trying to refine. Another thing we spend a lot of time on that we have realised is integral to the journey: industry leadership and working with others in the industry. We have a history of doing this type of work.

Organic exchange was one of the earliest groups we participated in, through our apparel division. Typically the apparel world has been more collaborative than footwear. However, as you go on your journey towards a sustainable product there are some things you just cannot do on your own. So we actually spend a lot of time working with the industry in an effort to move the whole industry forward.

What is the Leather Working Group?

The initiative of the Leather Working Group is: To develop and maintain a protocol that assesses the compliance and environmental stewardship of tanners and promotes sustainable and appropriate environmental business practices within the footwear leather industry.

The group seeks to improve the tanning industry by creating alignment on environmental priorities:

* To bring visibility to best practices

* Provide suggested guidelines to bring about continual improvement

* Work objectively with the industry, involving suppliers, brands, retailers, leading technical experts within the leather industry, NGOs, academic institutions and other stakeholder organisations

That is what we are trying to do!

Why did Nike join the Leather Working Group? And we were one of the earliest people to join and have made a lot of effort to help create this and help get new members in. One of my areas has been to find what environmentally preferred materials mean to Nike and obviously Nike uses a lot of leather.

For years there has been this ongoing question when a product team wants to help build a better shoe, what is the story around leather? What makes leather better? When I inherited this project I found that basically everyone is under the assumption that if it is chrome free, that means it is better leather. I did a bunch of research and talked to technical experts and realised that it is really not about the tanning agent, it is really about the supplier.

I spend a lot of time in tanneries but I am not a technical expert. Two years ago I had absolutely no way of making an apples to apples comparison of how good one tannery was over another from an environmental point of view.

You quickly appreciate once you start visiting tanneries the nuances that are involved in making leather. I could pick up some environmental implications here and there but it really wasn’t giving me good visibility to supply chains. I was really struggling. And other brands were also struggling with this dilemma.

I could sit down with a tanner and they could tell me about the great work they were doing but I had no context to put it in and I felt these conversations were a disservice to the brands and a disservice to the tannery.

During this time I learned that approximately 58% of global leather output winds up in footwear. When I first heard this statistic, I felt an enormous weight come down on my shoulders.

This is where the footwear industry really needs to step it up because this is really our legacy and if there is one industry that needs to rally and talk about raising the industry from an environmental point of view, it really needs to be footwear. It was clear from the start that the issue was bigger than Nike could tackle on its own and that the only way they could make headway would be through an industry collaborative effort.

The first meeting of interested parties was held two years ago at the time of the APLF (2005) to find out how many brands and tanners and retailers would be interested in coming together to try and help make a protocol that would be this environmental assessment of the stewardship and compliance issues that were happening in the tannery.

There was enough interest to enable us to establish the group in June 2005, and at that time some key brands were involved: Nike, Timberland, New Balance, Clarks etc. There were also some great tanners including Prime Asia, Sadesa, Pieles Temola, SRL as well as some other interested parties.

We had this goal that we would make this protocol and meet every 3-4 months. The protocol was officially launched in January 2007 and we will have phase three starting in November.

The Leather Working Group is a membership based organisation formed under the guidance of making sure that no US anti-trust laws are violated. Basically anyone can join provided that they pay a fee. This is not a closed secretive group that is coming together, but is an industry collaboration that anyone can join. And over the last year and a half, a lot of new members have come on board.

I serve on an executive committee which is the governing body of the organisation. I serve with another brand Clarks and two tanners. Wolverine and Prime Asia are also on this executive committee, with people rotating in and out.

It is an independent entity and we hired the BLC Leather Tech to act as facilitator and technical advice backer to the group although there is a lot of good information and experts at the table. This protocol evaluates the tanner on very key environmental matters, hazardous waste, wastewater, energy, solid waste, the typical things you look at when you want to evaluate the environmental impact of the tannery.

There are actually scored results (bronze, silver and gold are the highest). However, there is no failure from the protocol. We highlight the environmental scores of the tannery after they are evaluated. Transparency has always been a very key tenet of this initiative because we want everyone to benefit from it.

I want to have visibility to the practices of the tanners that produce the leather that might become Nike products. The brand really wants that.

And the tanners at the table were very interested in helping to shape a document that potentially can be used to evaluate them. There is no secret about what is in the document and anyone who is interested can go to: []

There is a lot of information on that site, including the protocol. Initially it was only available in English but it has now been translated into Chinese.

I am often asked what the document means. It is very clear that this group has to follow guidelines set up by anti-trust law. There is no agreement between brands or tanners on how this document is going to be used and there cannot be. It would be illegal and it also doesn’t make sense because every brand is different.

There are certain brands within this group that have decided they want to mandate it for all their suppliers. Other brands are choosing not to mandate it but to socialise it and introduce it to tanners and encourage them to have it done and highlight those who are doing really well. I fall into that category.

When a tanner that Nike uses has this audit done, I ask to see the results because Nike doesn’t own the results; the tanner does because he pays for it. Auditor qualifications are listed on the website. We are not saying here is the protocol and these are the only auditors that can conduct this protocol.

We are just trying to maintain a document that lists best available technology. And hopefully showing where the better environmental choices can be made. We are not a certifying body. However, it is very important to me and to other members of the group that there be some guidance about what kind of auditor is able to implement the protocol. This is a choice that anyone can make. We have put together a list of recommended auditor qualifications and when I, as a representative of Nike, talk to tanners I ask that the recommended qualifications are followed.

I say I don’t care who you choose to work with but please use someone who is qualified and when I say qualified I mean that they follow the recommended qualifications. This is a tool for organisations to use as they see fit. This is a living document which lists best available practices and as we go through and more audits are conducted we are constantly learning ways to make it better and more refined.

There needs to be a phase three because this is a living document. And as technology changes we want to be able to modify the document to keep up with that. It is important that there will be constant feedback between what the document is trying to do and what is actually happening when it is being implemented. Because if it is not working for the tanners, the group needs to know about it to find out if there is a way to modify it to make it better.

The whole goal is to make this a very sound document, that people can use as a reference document as well. It is very important that this be maintained. We are always looking for new members. Membership funds the organisation so without sufficient members, will it continue to happen?

We have some really good brands and tanners and it is always good to get new opinions. It is really helpful to get a lot of smart people round the table to figure out what is going to go into the document and what is not. Probably every year at the APLF, there will be an open session where people who are not members but are interested parties can also attend the meetings and give their opinions as to what is good about the document and what is not.

Lessons Nike is learning on how to make a more sustainable product (in no particular order):

* Fully understand your environmental footprint

* Importance of industry collaboration

* To appreciate what the consumers want

Our consumers want sustainability but not at the expense of performance and aesthetics.

Margolis concluded by saying that in trying to make a sustainable product, there is no finish line.

Mission statement

The objective of this multi-stakeholder group is to develop and maintain a protocol that assesses the compliance and environmental performance of tanners and promotes sustainable and appropriate environmental business practices within the footwear leather industry.

The group seeks to improve the tanning industry by creating alignment on environmental priorities, bringing visibility to best practices and providing suggested guidelines for continual improvement.

It is the group’s objective to work transparently, involving suppliers, brands, retailers, leading technical experts within the leather industry, NGOs, academic institutions and other stakeholder organisations.

Benefits of the group

* Offers the use of guidelines, consistent across the tanning industry

* Provides regular dialogue and updates with industry peers and leather experts

* Demonstrates public commitment towards environmental protection

* Gives access to a list of audited tanneries (voluntary listing)

Leather industry protocol

* The protocol is intended to provide suggested guidelines for the environmental performance of tanneries 

* The protocol was developed and reviewed by footwear tanners, brands and industry experts to ensure adequacy and technical feasibility

* A recent version of the environmental auditing protocol has been peer reviewed by the World Wildlife Fund US and further NGO input will be requested as budget allows

* The leather working group has adopted a guidance document that gives tanners information on suggested best environmental practices.

Companies involved in the development                                             



Chaco Inc

Clarks International

Ikea of Sweden

Levi Strauss & Co

Marks & Spencer plc

New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc

NEXT Retail Ltd

Nike Inc

Pentland Group plc

The Timberland Company 


Pieles Temola SA de CV

Perrin-Rostaing Tannery

Prime Asia Leather Corporation

Sadesa SA

Shanghai Richina Leather Co Ltd

Simona Tanning Inc

Wolverine Leathers

Auditor brief

Environmental Auditor of Tanneries Specification: The provision of environmental auditing services applying an agreed protocol for tanneries in different regions of the world. Recommended qualifications for the auditors

1. Educated to degree level or above in chemistry, biology or leather technology

2. At least ten years experience in the tanning and finishing process

3. A thorough understanding of effluent treatment processes for tanneries

4. Third party qualified in auditing techniques.

Recommended skills and knowledge

1. The ability to communicate general and technical information effectively through both verbal and written methods

2. The ability to write structured, concise reports

3. An understanding of restricted substance implications in tanneries

4. An understanding of clean technology application and water consumption management in tanneries.

Other recommended terms

1. It is suggested that the organisation be able to provide a number of qualified auditors upon request and have appropriate commercial liability insurance to cover the task

2. Auditors must be able to demonstrate that there are no conflicts of interest with tanneries to be audited.