Nike VC Arm To Invest In Green Startups

Sports brand and sneaker maker Nike is going to start investing in green startups, through its new VC arm called the Sustainable Business & Innovation Lab. This group will seek out companies focused on sustainable products, sustainable manufacturing and sustainable marketplaces.

The fund is designed to support Nike’s goals involving the integration of corporate responsibility into its business and its evolution to a “closed-loop” business model.

Nike’s focus on integrating corporate responsibility into the company began in 2004, the company explains on its website, and Nike notes in particular the efforts of its “Considered Design” solution, which is focused on making fully closed loop products that are produced using the fewest possible materials, are easily disassembled and ar capable of being recycled into new products or returned to nature at the end of their life.

Throughout FY10, Nike has been sharing its findings in this area publicly in an effort to create industry-wide scale. For example, last winter Nike released its Environmental Apparel Design Tool, which helps designers make real-time choices that decrease the environmental impact of their work.

The new SB&I team aims to further Nike’s goals in this area of sustainability and corporate responsibility, the company says. It includes around 130 people who work with sustainability specialists who are integrated into other parts of the organization including retail, logistics and I.T.

The company has not yet stated how much money the fund will involve, nor has it yet to start its investing.

From a Facebook job posting last year (discovered via PSFK), the Lab was said to have planned investments in two portfolios that would help “accelerate Nike’s sustainability vision and long-term business growth.” The description read as follows:

“The SB&I Lab will use multiple tools, primarily equity investments in early, mid and growth stage businesses. But also, as required, will invest in partnerships and alliances with institutions, governments and NGOs. Depending upon the need and opportunity, the SB&I Lab will serve as creator and manager, sole funder, lead investor, co-investor, general partner or limited partner in operating companies and organizations.”

A more current job posting describes the Lab as involving six teams, all aimed at helping Nike’s to “thrive in a resource constrained world.” While greener products will certainly have consumer appeal, despite all the corporate-speak about “the environment” and “eco-friendliness,” the bottom line for the business is making its products more cheaply.

Nike isn’t the only sports brand getting into VC investing. Adidas also backed its own VC fund earlier this year.