Adidas Is Taking These New Steps to Address Its Race Issues — And How Beyoncé Is Playing a Role

Adidas says it’s doing the work to create lasting change across an organization (and world) that has recently had its share of diversity and inclusion challenges — and it’s tapping into its star-studded celebrity roster to get a boost.

The Germany-based athletic brand today — keeping in theme with its goal of greater transparency — provided an update on its progress toward several diversity and inclusion targets it outlined in June.

Among the areas where the company said it has been making headway include in hiring and career development, where it said it already is outpacing some of its goals. Adidas pledged in June to fill 30% of all new positions with Black and LatinX employees, and 50% of all positions with diverse talent of all categories. It is also targeting 20% to 23% Black and LatinX employees in corporate roles by 2025, and 12% in leadership positions in the U.S. by that time.

So far, the company said it is already “hitting above” those targets in the U.S. for Black and LatinX people at both Adidas and owned-brand Reebok.

Adidas is also joining forces with Beyoncé — with whom it has worked for the past two years — committing $10 million over the next three years to fund BeyGOOD partner social programs, organizations and/or initiatives that help bring equity to those disproportionately impacted by social and racial injustice. As an immediate first step, Adidas has matched Beyoncé’s recent $1 million contribution to NAACP for BeyGOOD‘s Black-Owned Small Business Impact Fund.

Adidas in June joined the growing roster of global corporations stepping up to recognize Juneteenth as a company holiday — the company said today that it accepted that challenge from longtime collaborator, Pharrell Williams.

Regarding its anti-discrimination and non-retaliation policy, Adidas said it’s since “strengthened” that part of its enterprise by, among other things, conducting a series of listening sessions that included more than 700 employees led by close to 40 leaders from the Committee to Accelerate Inclusion & Equality, executive board and senior leadership team. The athletic behemoth said its leadership team, including the executive board, has also participated in training sessions on creating accountability for inclusive, responsive leadership.

Adidas shared today that it is also chipping away at its goal to invest $120 million toward initiatives in the U.S. focused on ending racial injustice and/or supporting Black communities through 2025.

One of its first initiatives is Close the Gap, which the company described as a program built in partnership with Impact Hub, “the world’s largest network of social ventures and entrepreneurs,” which will give its employees in North America and Germany, a chance to work with BIPOC-led social ventures. It said it’s also matching employee donations by 200% through DEED, its online donation platform, to support nonprofit organizations driving racial justice and human rights for underrepresented communities. This currently benefits the NAACP, the National Urban League, Campaign Zero, ACLU, The Innocence Project, Transgender Law Center and the Minnesota Freedom Fund).

What’s more, Adidas is dedicating some of its $120 million investment to developing young talent: It is collaborating with Reebok on a scholarship program that will provide debt relief for 50 Black and LatinX students at HBCUs, each receiving a grant of $10,000. It will also fund 50 university scholarships a year for Black and LatinX students at HBCUs over the next 5 years.

Reebok has separately pledged to invest $15 million over the next five years into Black and LatinX communities and organizations focused on ending racial injustice and plans to re-launch the Reebok Human Rights Award to support and honor activists who are working to dismantle systemic racism. The Boston-based brand further plans to Increase its focus on its non-profit school exercise program, BOKS, to Black and LatinX communities, including a new $200,000 grant program.

Stoked by national unrest over racial injustice stemming from the killing of George Floyd, years of internal dissension surrounding Adidas treatment of Black and other minority employees, had come to a head in June. Protests by Black employees and their allies as well as media reports recounting purported instances of discrimination at the brand’s North America HQ in Portland Ore., culminated in late June with the resignation of Karen Parkin, the company’s head of Global Human Resources.

Earlier that month, a 13-member coalition representing more than 200 Adidas employees called for Parkin’s resignation. They cited comments she made last year at a company meeting in Boston at Reebok’s HQ, where she described concerns over racial disparities as “noise” and further suggested the company did not need to take action as the criticisms were only present in its North America offices for Adidas.

The same coalition had also already delivered to Adidas North America management, including president Zion Armstrong, a 32-page deck, dubbed “Our State of Emergency.”

In addition to claims that management “doesn’t grasp the discrimination minorities might face” and that “the difference in perception is largest in Germany,” the document had listed four major “asks.” The coalition had demanded the company invest in its Black employees; the Black community; the fight for racial justice and change for Black people — and demonstrate accountability.

Adidas had responded with its new D&I initiatives.

“This is a global effort, and we have global programs in place to support BIPOC communities,” the company said today. “Many of our early commitments were made in the U.S., but that’s only the beginning. We are working to introduce similar programs in all of our markets, informed and developed by our employees. As we go forward, we will continue to strive for better, for those at the heart of our brand. We’re making promising strides, but we’re only getting started.”

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