Nike shareholders call for more transparency around diversity efforts

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Nike shareholders want proof that the company is committed to its diversity efforts. Some shareholders have gone so far as to ask the sportswear giant to disclose diversity data at its annual meeting of shareholders on Wednesday.

The move is part of a measure created by “As You Sow”, a nonprofit shareholder advocacy group, which calls on Nike for greater transparency and statistics on things like compensation and hiring according to gender and race. Supporters of the initiative say it will hold Nike which has long affirmed that racial justice and equity is one of its core values ​​through is committed to fighting racism and using prominent spokespersons of color indebted.

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“Nike has committed significant capital to build its reputation as a leader on social justice issues,” said Meredith Benton, Work Equity Program Manager at As You Sow and founder of consultancy firm Whistle Stop Capital. “Investors seek reassurance that its own practices are sufficiently implemented to protect its very valuable brand. “

As the You Sow shareholder request, initially proposed in April, pointed out that Nike brought in famous spokespersons, such as Colin Kaepernick, to move his agenda forward. Additionally, after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer in May 2020, Nike President and CEO John Donahoe wrote a letter to employees condemning racial injustice and pledging to invest $ 40 million over the next four years in Black communities in the United States

“As we strive to help shape a better society, our most important priority is getting our home in order,” Donahoe wrote in the June 2020 letter. “Simply put, we need to keep going. to foster and develop a culture where diversity, inclusion and belonging are valued and real.

“We know Black Lives Matter,” Donahoe wrote. “We must act and we must act to help create lasting change that addresses systemic racism in our society.”

Yet the shareholders’ resolution also pointed out that Nike also has a history of allegations of gender bias and racial discrimination within the company. Some executives in Nike’s C-suite have left in recent years after reports surfaced regarding their behavior towards certain groups. Trevor Edwards, president of the flagship brand of Nike Inc., for example, resigned in early 2018 after an alleged misconduct in the company.

“Nike has faced damaging allegations of harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex, race and gender identity,” reads the As You Sow resolution. “Reports of a toxic workplace continued even after allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination led to significant turnover of male managers in 2018.”

The sportswear and accessories retailer has also been accused of a “performative alliance,” or the idea of ​​aligning with marginalized groups to improve optics.

Nike representatives did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. But the company wrote a statement of opposition in its most recent proxy statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying that “the board of directors believes the proposal is unnecessary because the information Nike is already publicly disclosing regarding our initiatives and diversity measures are responsive to the core objective of the proposal and provide our shareholders with meaningful insight into our progress in this area.

Nike has also released some key data metrics regarding its progress in its 2025 Diversity, Sustainability and Goals Report last March. Among them, the representation of racial and ethnic minorities at the vice-presidential level at the national level increased by eight percentage points in 2020 to reach 29%. In addition, women made up 49.5% of the total workforce, including 43% in managerial positions and above, in 2020. Racial and ethnic minorities in the United States held 27% of the workforce. managerial positions at director level or above in 2020.

The total number of minorities who work at Nike is unclear, but from exercise 2019, or before the pandemic, 22% of the roughly 76,000 Nike employees globally identified as black or African American. Nike is aiming for 45% representation of women globally at vice president level, 30% representation of racial and ethnic minorities at director level and above in the United States, and 35% representation of racial minorities. and ethnicities in the overall U.S. business workforce by 2025.

Still, As You Sow also pointed out that Nike does not release its EEO-1 Component 1 report to the public. The mandatory form is used to collect demographic data on the workforce of private companies with 100 or more employees, including data on race, gender and job categories.

“The company also does not publish meaningful data relating to the hiring, retention or promotion of its various employees,” the April proposal said. “Nike is providing insufficient quantitative data to investors to determine the effectiveness of its human capital management program with respect to diversity in the workplace. “

Nike will hold its annual meeting of shareholders virtually on Wednesday.

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