Adidas CEO Says Employee Complaints Over Alleged Racism Didn’t Hurt Sales

Adidas has not seen a material impact on its top line following some of its employees’ complaints over alleged racism at the brand.

During its virtual annual shareholder meeting today, the Germany-based sportswear giant’s CEO, Kasper Rorsted, was asked whether sales had been affected by the company’s challenges surrounding diversity and inclusion, which ultimately led to the exit of its human resources chief at the end of June.

“We do not get the impression that our customers refuse to buy our products,” Rorsted said.

Just over two months ago, a 13-member coalition that represented more than 200 Adidas employees called for the resignation of Adidas executive board member and head of global human resources Karen Parkin. The group cited comments she made last year at a company meeting at Adidas-owned brand Reebok in Boston, where she responded to a question regarding reports that Adidas was facing significant issues in how it treated minority employees.

According to sources who spoke with FN, Parkin had described concerns over racial disparities as “noise” and suggested that the company did not need to take action as the criticisms were only present in Adidas’ North America offices. She stepped down from her post on June 30 after 23 years at the athletic-wear business.

Since assuming responsibility for the department in the interim, Rorsted said in a press conference last week that he has been having conversations with “people across the world” … “almost every single day.”

“In America, we have not made enough progress with the Black community,” the executive chief said on Thursday. “And we are taking that very seriously… It has been a humbling experience for me. The company and I are deeply committed to correcting this situation and building a company everybody can be proud of.”

Today, Rorsted added that some employees have told him that there were not enough equal opportunities at the brand. “That is not acceptable,” he responded. “It’s a priority for us to make Adidas an even more diverse and inclusive company.”

So far, Adidas has introduced several new D&I initiatives: Since June 9, it established a global Committee to Accelerate Inclusion and Equality; announced new minimum targets in the United States for increased representation of Black and LatinX people; pledged 50 university scholarships in the U.S. each year for Black students at partner schools; and is investing $120 million toward U.S. initiatives focused on ending racial injustice and/or supporting Black communities through 2025.

Editor’s note: The original story featured a quote that had been pulled from a preliminary version of the transcript. The quote has been updated to reflect the latest, most accurate version of the transcript.

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