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Sustainability in the Clothing Industry – College Tour with Mike van der Zanden

On the autumn evening of November 30th, the Da Vinci Honours Programme participants came together for an engaging session at the College Tour. The aim of the College Tour is to provide students with insights into sustainability from various industry perspectives, with experts sharing their experiences, facts, and beliefs. This particular tour focused on the pressing issue of fast-fashion waste.

Leading the discussion was the esteemed guest, Mike van der Zanden, Nike EMA Sustainable Supply Chain Director. Mike, a veteran at Nike since 2008, has held various positions, initially starting as an Operations Project Leader.

The event commenced with a thought-provoking question: What are our thoughts on Nike and sustainability? Students were encouraged to submit their answers, fostering an environment where diverse perspectives could be explored.

Throughout the College Tour, Mike adeptly guided participants through the intricacies of sustainable production and delivery. Students found it particularly enlightening to understand Nike’s stance on these matters, prompting them to delve deeper into the subject and remain open to new viewpoints.

The Da Vinci programme students responsible for organizing the tour skillfully balanced different components, ensuring participants had an exceptional and enriching discussion experience. The WooClap activity and debate encouraged students to share their opinions, fostering an environment where diverse voices could be heard. The debate, closely tied to Mike’s expertise, allowed him to provide detailed answers to the discussion questions.

“The debate with Nike’s Sustainability Director, the convergence of fashion design, sustainability, and economic thinking was eye-opening. Witnessing how the director seamlessly integrated these elements showcased the potential for a holistic approach in the industry. This experience gave me enthusiasm for exploring the intersection of creativity, environmental responsibility, and business viability in my future endeavors. It made me think about how I could combine my studies and personal interests in my future career.”

~ Nomudara, The Da Vinci Programme student

The College Tour concluded by revisiting the initial question: the relationship between Nike and its approach towards sustainability. Participants could observe how many students had altered their answers from their initial opinions.

The event not only equipped students with industry knowledge but also provided a platform for open debates, allowing participants to learn from diverse perspectives and develop their own points of view. It was a collaborative exploration that went beyond the classroom, leaving a lasting impact on the students’ understanding of sustainability in the world of fashion.

This article has been written by Pola Marcińczak, Da Vinci Project 2023-2024 student