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For Nike's Chief Sustainability Officer Hannah Jones, Badassery Is a Daily Practice

- Jeff Dey
Jeff Dey

Badass Woman spotlights women who not only have a voice but defy the irrelevant preconceptions of gender. (Not to mention, they are exceptionally cool.)

Who she is: From creating environmentally sound products to overseeing innovation, Chief Sustainability Officer and VP of the Innovation Accelerator Hannah Jones is Nike’s most dynamic player.

Why she’s a badass: Jones started her career as an activist—in the mid-’90s she spearheaded awareness campaigns throughout Europe related to AIDS and HIV. In 1998, at the height of Nike’s sweatshop controversy, she was hired by the brand as senior director of corporate responsibility. A big part of her job included traveling to factories around the world to ensure better working conditions and establish Nike’s first philanthropic programs. “My heart beats the hardest if I think I can do something to make a difference in someone’s life who is about as far away from the powers of the construct as they can be,” she says. Nearly two decades later she is the brand’s chief sustainability officer and vice president of the innovation accelerator, where dynamic design and its environmental effects are considered in equal measure.

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Learning to fly: Last September Nike débuted Flyleather, a material created by Jones and her team that takes otherwise discarded scraps of leather and fuses them with polyester fibers, resulting in lighter and more durable products. Flyleather also significantly reduces the carbon and water footprints of traditional leather by 80 percent and 90 percent, respectively. “This is my unicorn—it hits on everything in such an amazing way,” says Jones, who has plans to roll out the material later this year for all performance gear, starting with the iconic Cortez and Air Force 1 sneakers.

Badass squared: In addition to her work at Nike, Jones also founded a nonprofit group called—wait for it—the League of Badass Women, which, though still in its early stages, has roughly 10,000 members internationally. The group’s main mission is to break down “workplace models that were essentially designed by men for men” by creating a support system through dialogue and ongoing mentorship. “Badassery is a daily practice, not a result or title,” says Jones.

Stepping up: “The other day I was with [Olympic soccer gold medalist] Abby Wambach, and she was talking about how you go on this journey and use your power for good, but you have to be your best self before you can actually realize the ability to do that,” she says, citing the importance of mentorship. “I think we’ve all seen when women are judged only on their performance, not their potential. So when someone leans in and believes in you and says, ‘I know you can do this,’ that’s a massive gift.”

For more stories like this, pick up the March issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download Feb. 9.

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