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Nike’s New European Distribution Center Will Help Clean Up its Supply Chain

Forget about the “store of the future.” Nike’s latest investment is a state-of-the-art supply chain of the future.

The athletic apparel and footwear giant has expanded its logistics facility in Belgium in a bid to make its European operations more efficient, more responsive and more sustainable. According to the company, the upgraded distribution center—which employs more than 3,000 people—will serve consumers across as well as its retail and wholesale partners in 38 countries, all from a single inventory location.

“Globally, we ship more than one billion units of footwear, apparel and equipment every year, which demands an agile, innovative and sustainable supply chain,” Eric Sprunk, chief operating officer, said in a statement Thursday. “The expansion of our European Logistics Campus demonstrates our commitment to bring the full range of Nike products to consumers more quickly, where and when they want it—whether it’s one pair of Flyknit shoes or a 10,000-item order for a retailer.”

“Our facilities in Belgium are a pinnacle example of how sustainable innovation is embedded into Nike’s growth strategy, which enables us to maximize our performance while minimizing our footprint,” Bert Stevens, vice president of supply chain operations at Nike Europe, noted. “The success of this expansion is a result of excellent teamwork, with great cooperation from local and national governments, and support from many partners and the local community.”

It’s all part of Nike’s vision for a low-carbon, closed-loop future, as outlined earlier this month in its annual sustainable business report.

Renewable energy is a key feature of the new facility: six wind turbines on-site produce enough electricity to power 5,000 households, while solar panels cover the size of three soccer fields. The center also gets energy locally from geothermal, hydroelectric and biomass sources.

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In addition, the facility is fed by an infrastructure of canals, railways and highways. Notably, 99 percent of inbound containers reach the local container park by water, not road, which Nike said will save 14,000 truck journeys a year.

The company is also moving away from a traditional structure that requires more steel and concrete. The new warehouse is a rack-supported building, reducing waste and material used, thereby minimizing its footprint.

Other features include: more than 95 percent of waste generated on-site is recycled (for instance, pathways used by employees are made from recycled footwear material); lots of windows and automated LED lighting help cut costs and environmental impact; sheep will naturally maintain the landscape; on-site beehives will contribute to biodiversity by pollinating flower around the facility and in the local area.

And there’s more like this to come: earlier this month, Nike said it would focus on creating fewer and better factories.