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Activists Pressure Nike Shareholders to Vote for Diversity Resolutions Ahead of Annual Meeting

Ahead of Nike’s annual shareholder meeting on Oct. 6, activists are pressuring shareholders to vote in favor of a resolution to disclose more details related to diversity, equity and inclusion progress.

Shareholders at the Swoosh will vote on whether or not they support a resolution from consultancy Whistle Stop Capital and corporate watchdog and shareholder advocacy group As You Sow. The resolution would require Nike to publish an annual report assessing its progress on certain DEI initiatives, including, at minimum, details on how the board measures the effectiveness of DEI programs and metrics related to the promotion, recruitment and retention of protected classes of employees.

In its annual proxy statement filed in August with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nike’s board of directors recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal to publish the more detailed report assessing DEI initiatives, citing the company’s already existing annual report that addresses “the essential objective of the proposal,” including information of DEI initiatives.

Though Nike releases its own annual Impact Report, activist shareholders said this offers “insufficient quantitative data for investors to determine the effectiveness of its human capital management program as it relates to workplace diversity.” Nike is currently not among the 71% of S&P 100 companies that release their EEO-1 forms disclosing workforce composition, though the company said it would start disclosing this data for 2021.

“I encourage Nike to step forward and share honestly the effectiveness of its diversity programs; demonstrating, even in the face of imperfection, that it is truly committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce,” said Jaylen Spann, an associate at Whistle Stop Capital who will present the resolution to Nike’s board on Wednesday, in a statement.

Footwear News has reached out to Nike for a comment.

Nike has made some improvements in DEI efforts in recent years. According to its annual 2020 Impact Report,  Nike increased the share of racial and ethnic minorities in its overall workforce in 2020 by 5.16%. It also saw a 13.38% increase at the VP level. Nike also offers DEI-focused initiatives such as the Serena Design Crew apprenticeship program meant for diverse design candidates as well as its Women in Nike (W.I.N) program for retired or retiring WNBA players.

Advocacy group As You Sow has previously pressured Nike and other companies to share metrics related to diversity. The group maintains that Nike’s current reporting process does not allow for comparison with other companies and does not disclose promotion and retention rates by race and ethnicity.

“Nike has allocated significant capital into building its reputation as a leader on social justice issues,” said Meredith Benton, workplace equity program manager at As You Sow and founder of Whistle Stop Capital. “Investors are seeking reassurance that its own practices are sufficiently implemented to protect its very valuable brand.”

In addition to DEI initiatives, shareholders will also elect 12 directors for the following year and will vote on topics such as executive compensation, pay equity, diversity and inclusion efforts, and human rights impacts within the company’s supply chain.
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