Sporting goods giant Nike has released a new Environmental Apparel Design Tool designed to fast-track sustainable innovation among clothing companies.

The tool, based on the company’s Considered Design Index, aims to accelerate collaboration between companies and decrease the use of natural resources such as oil and water.

The software-based tool, which took seven years and US$6m of investment to build, aims to help designers to make real-time choices that decrease the environmental impact of their work.

Nike said it was also a practical way of rating how apparel designs manage to reduce waste and increase the use of environmentally preferred materials.

The company added that it welcomed others potentially improving on the tool, since it was committed to open innovation.

“This tool is about making it simple for designers to make the most sustainable choices right at the start of the product creation process,” said Hannah Jones, vice president of Nike Sustainable Business and Innovation.

“Over the past four years it has proved to be invaluable at Nike and has helped us create products with a higher sustainability standard.”

Nike said it would also release its Footwear Design Tool, Material Assessment Tool and Water Assessment Tool in 2011.