In the #MeToo era, major companies are increasingly facing pressure to address alleged misconduct within their businesses. Where the athletic industry is concerned, Nike Inc. has become the most glaring case study on how firms shoulder internal behavioral issues in the public eye during such a crucial time.
The sports giant faced back-to-back departures of top executives as its management conducted an investigation into purported misconduct at the company — allegedly the result of a survey circulated by female employees. Since then, the company has seen the exit of more than 10 high-profile names, including brand president Trevor Edwards and VP of diversity and inclusion Antoine Andrews.
“I can’t comment about what’s going on at Nike,” Kasper Rorsted told the local newspaper in an article published two days ago. “One must always look into a mirror at your own face and ask yourself, ‘Are we treating people appropriately?'”
He continued: “In a global company, for most people, the operating language is English, but it’s not their native language. So when you have a lot of people using their second language, there can be a lot of misunderstanding going around. Sometimes it’s not deliberate. It starts with having a framework around culture and behavior.”
Nike, which is based in Beaverton, Ore., employed about 67,500 people worldwide as of fiscal year 2017, according to its latest sustainability report. It is now considered the world’s largest supplier and manufacturer of athletic shoes, apparel and sports equipment.
As for his take on Nike’s supposed boys’ club culture, Rorsted again focused his feedback around his strategy for Adidas.
“I think when you run a company with 56,000 employees, it would be wrong to say never,” he said, referencing Adidas’ workforce count. “But what we’re very clear on is what the expected behavior is of every individual in the organization. Setting a very clear tone from the top of what is acceptable behavior is actually the best way of governing an organization — being clear about it, being transparent about what happens if somebody violates the cultural elements of who you want to be.”
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