Ikea joins Nike as investor in waterless-dyeing company

Ikea joins Nike as investor in waterless-dyeing company

April 09–Ikea has joined Nike as an investor in a Dutch company that makes a waterless fabric dyeing system, an innovation the companies say could curtail the huge amounts of water needed for traditional dyeing, which results in chemical discharges.

The Swedish furniture company said a subsidiary, Ikea GreenTech,invested in DyeCoo Textile Systems B.V. of The Netherlands. DyeCo has developed the first commercially available waterless dyeing technology.

Lorrie Vogel, Nike general manager for the sustainable product research and discovery team, mentioned the partnership in a presentation on sustainability Tuesday at a Port of Portland lunch. Ikea and Nike said they first disclosed the investment Monday.

Nike announced in February last year it would invest in DyeCoo’s technology. Nike and Ikea say their investments will help speed up development and availability of DyeCoo’s technology.

The challenge facing DyeCoo will be producing enough machines to make a dent in the world’s fabric dyeing, most of which occurs in Asia.

After announcing its partnership with DyeCoo last year, Nike said it anticipated introducing products using the technology later in 2012. In August, it unveiled one singlet for one Kenyan runner — although that was for a high-profile one, in former world marathon champion and Olympic silver medalist Abel Kirui.

“We recognized at the outset that the technology was nascent and would require time to develop,” Nike spokeswoman Mary Remuzzi said in a statement Tuesday. “Nike’s focus is on the longer-term goal of scale and application to performance product. We are excited by the progress DyeCoo is making and remain committed to the objective of scale and industry-wide transformation.”

The entire fabric production process is resource intensive. On average, an estimated 100 to 150 liters of water is needed to process a kilogram of textile materials.

Put another way, Vogel told the Port of Portland audience, is that it takes 700 gallons of water to produce at T-shirt.

Nike has “been on a journey since the early 1990s to become a more sustainable company,” Vogel told the group attending the “Gateway to the Globe” luncheon at the downtown Hilton Hotel. “We’ve done a good job reducing our footprint.”

As Vogel spoke, a photo popped on a screen of Nike distribution buildings in Laakdal, Belgium, ringed with wind turbines which she said provide all of the facility’s electricity.

She also said the company has reduced its greenhouse gases by 18 percent from a 10-years-ago level as Nike has doubled in size.

Shifting from solvent-based glues to water-based glues reduced Nike’s release of volatile organic compounds by 95 percent, she said, adding that the company has shared that method with competitors.

The company is one of the world’s top purchasers of organic cotton. And footwear manufacturing waste, she said, is 50 percent less than what it was 10 years ago, adding that two-thirds of that waste is recyclable.

“It’s not enough,” she said. “Incremental reductions will never get us to our goal, our sustainability goal, which is to decouple our growth from scarce resources.”

— Allan Brettman