After facing pressure from shareholders, Nike is set to release worker recruitment and promotion data parsed out by gender, race and ethnicity by the end of 2024, according to an announcement by As You Sow, a non-profit advocacy group.
As You Sow led the filing of an October 2021 resolution asking for this data. The contingent was also interested in the efficacy of Nike’s diversity and inclusion programs.
Investors demanding a dialogue about the company’s DEI commitments may be surprising; As a brand, Nike has based some of its brand on centering controversial social justice figures. See Colin Kaepernick’s “Dream Crazy” ad, which won an Emmy in 2019; Nike’s four-year $40 million racial justice commitment in 2020; and its short film We Play Real centering Black women for International Women’s Day 2021.
But, according to As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar, investors “were concerned that Nike might be seen as inconsistent in its external marketing image and its internal policies and practices.” The problem lay in continued “advertis[ing] themes of race and social justice, without providing detailed data on the effectiveness of its own internal diversity programs," Behar said in a press release.
This is not the first time this criticism has been brought to the fore. Writer Hoda Katebi tweeted similar sentiments following Kaepernick ad release. In December 2019, about 400 Nikes employees walked out to protest the brand’s alleged mistreatment of women — namely runner Mary Cain, who had spoken publicly a month prior about damaging experiences with Nike staff. University of Texas, Austin, media scholars Jennifer McClearen and Lily Kunda have also observed the discrepancy between Nike’s employee experience and its justice-oriented branding, linking it to the theory of “commodity activism.”
In turn, the press release noted shareholders’ belief that Nike’s release of demographic data actually “increases alignment with Nike’s marketing around racial and social justice themes,” which has historically featured athletes and celebrities of color.
“Nike has allocated significant capital into building its reputation as a leader on social justice issues,” said As You Sow’s Workplace Equity Program Manager Meredith Benton; “Investors have been seeking reassurance that its own practices are sufficiently implemented to protect its very valuable brand."
Investors also requested that Nike release retention rate data, but the athletic brand has not agreed to that.