Raising the bar: Nike backcasting from a bold vision of success

In May of 2012, hallmark company Nike published its Sustainable Business Report for 2010/11, demonstrating that it is increasingly reaping the benefits of integrating sustainability into its core business through a world-class vision and strategy.

Nike has contextualized all of its sustainability efforts relative to a bold, aspirational vision:

"Our vision is to build a sustainable business and create value for Nike and our stakeholders by decoupling profitable growth from constrained resources."

Having a robust sustainability vision allows Nike to “backcast”, or in other words, evaluate where they stand relative to their vision and chart a course towards it. The company’s targets and commitments are divided into focus areas that help them “make today better”, “design the future”, and they clearly support the achievement of Nike’s vision statement. Consider the way in which Nike’s action planning can then tie into its strategic imperatives to support its transformation toward sustainability, while avoiding misplaced, ad hoc, or solely incremental efforts.

The company has framed its strategy in the context of "meta-trends" – transcendent, global, emerging, and long-term factors that provide insight into a very different (and much more difficult) operating environment for business going forward. At The Natural Step Canada, we describe this collection of trends using the metaphor of "the funnel", which results in increasing pressure and less room for organizations to “maneuver” as the sustainability challenge increases in scope over time. If these trends make operating more difficult over time, it follows that the best time to adopt more sustainable practices is now.

Click here to learn how The Natural Step can help your organization shape its sustainability journey to capture business value now and in the future.