On the heels of its latest impact report and ahead of its earnings release on Monday, Nike held a livestream last week centered on purpose.
The virtual livestream was held to outline Nike’s 2025 Purpose commitments and celebrate “50 Years of Moving the World Forward Through Sport,” as the event title captured. The dialogue addressed tangible gains — across Nike’s people, planet and play pillars — as the company approaches its 50th anniversary this spring. The event also provided a window into executives’ personal trials (the dreaded Zoom meeting crashed by a doorbell or dog) and triumphs navigating a new normal (back to office).
Last year, Nike linked its purpose targets to executive compensation, including targets to invest $125 million in organizations supporting racial equity by 2025 ($36.6 million in fiscal year 2021) and divert 100 percent of manufacturing waste from tier 1 footwear suppliers from landfill (which the company already does).
While many companies are just now injecting ESG into the fore, Nike counts 20 years of reporting on environmental, social and corporate governance issues and 75,000 employees with a vested interest in the footwear behemoth’s future progress.
Climate is one area of obligation, given the company’s impact.
“Climate change is such a massively complex issue. We certainly have an outsized role to play,” said Noel Kinder, Nike Inc. chief sustainability officer. “We have a leadership position in it and a majority to share with others, but there’s no way we’ll get it done on our own, which is why we helped found organizations like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and we have relationships with the United Nations. We’ll continue to lean into those and act as a catalyst in that space and bring others to bear complicated problems.”
Employee and supplier engagement were two areas where slippage occurred at Nike last year due to increased scope. Inclusive leadership and culture — and how the executives are, quite candidly, learning — was a topic of focus.
“We all did a course with Northwestern University [an “Inclusive Leadership” training developed in collaboration with Northwestern]…It was like being back in the classroom. It was intense, but then how do you share that with your teams? And then, how do I share that with my kids?” said Jorge Casimiro, Nike Inc. chief public policy and social impact officer. “It’s not just about enriching myself with that information but sharing it with others.”
Leadership is a guiding force to enact progress on Purpose.
“Our focus [was] to ensure that inclusive leadership was the training,” said Felicia Mayo, Nike’s chief talent, diversity and inclusion officer. “Our focus was to provide that safe space that you’re hearing about — that many of our leaders took advantage of — and sat in the room and asked those tough questions. We did it with our community as VPs. We were able to have a conversation so that when we went out to our teams, we were ready. We were ready to have the difficult conversations and be able to say, ‘I don’t know.’
“I think [the question is] how do you show that with your actions?,’ as you lead day to day in your business,” she said.
Echoing Mayo’s points, Virginia Rustique-Petteni, vice president of Purpose communications at Nike, added: “We have said we have a target to hit — to educate on inclusivity. It’s all about finishing it, too. It’s not just about having it available; we have to complete it.”
As with many companies, leadership accountability, recruiting diverse talent and employee engagement are aspects of the company’s DE&I strategy. Nike said it reached its goal to see 30 percent representation of U.S. racial and ethnic minorities at director level and above in a year’s time (from 26.9 percent in 2020 to 30.3 percent, in 2021). The company aims to have 100 percent of its vice presidents “complete and be credentialed on inclusive leadership education,” which is a newly instated metric.
To that point, Mayo added: “Diversity doesn’t stay stagnant, as we know.”