Nike, the world’s largest sportswear manufacturer, has hired the inventor of the wiki, Ward Cunningham, to lead its plans to make data on the sustainability of its operations available online.
Cunningham’s official title at Nike is ‘Code for a Better World Fellow’ and, according to the text of the advertisement put out by Nike in April, Cunningham will be responsible for "the creation of prototypes that demonstrate how opening Nike’s sustainability data can be a force to drive change".
In 1994, Cunningham installed the world’s first wiki, a webpage that anyone can edit, on the website of his software development consultancy, Cunningham & Cunningham.
According to a blog post published today by transarency advocacy group the Open Knowledge Foundation, Nike has a long history of releasing data, and published a list of all its contracted factories in 2000.
Francis Irving, CEO of ScraperWiki and author of the post, says Nike are doing this because it is "terrified". "Not terrified of bad PR due to human rights violations like in the 1990s, terrified that there won’t be enough water to grow cheap cotton," Irving wrote. "Terrified that oil prices will continue to shoot up, and they won’t be able to afford international shipping. Terrified that the delicate, beautiful-if-flawed civilisation that we’ve built won’t last in a form where enough people can afford to take part in organised, well equipped sport."
An advert for an event taking place later this year, at which Cunningham will present, says that Nike is contributing $6 million worth of data to the evaluation of the life cycle impact of its materials.
"As Nike’s Code for a Better World Fellow, Ward Cunningham will be diving into the data and is asking the community of hackers to come together to unlock more value and create greater impact beyond its usage at Nike," the advert says. So far, it says, spreadsheets have been the best format for accessing the data.