A Year After Adidas’ Diversity Awakening, Eric Wise Opens Up About the Brand’s Journey

A year ago, Eric Wise knew he had an opportunity to ignite meaningful change around diversity and inclusion at Adidas — and beyond.

The May 2020 murder of George Floyd propelled Wise and a group of determined Adidas forces to come together and call for more accountability in the fight against racism.

The company’s global GM of Adidas Basketball and co-executive sponsor of Adidas United Against Racism shared insight about the brand’s journey at the FN CEO Summit on Thursday.

In a conversation with FN Business Editor Samantha McDonald, Wise outlined the areas where the company has been making headway.

Adidas pledged last 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.

Here, more key takeaways from the discussion:

How a Movement Started:

“When we came together at the end of last May, this was the start of the global movement toward this true social justice. Internally, as a group, there were 12 of us who felt could we do more. We came together on a Saturday night. We’re almost a year to the day on this journey we’ve been on. What you see now is Adidas United Against Racism, and our commitment as a brand. It focuses on three pillars: people, community and accountability. It’s been a ton of work. It’s been an amazing transformation. I’m humble and happy about this journey and where we’re going.”

The Big Picture:

“It was what was happening outside of our walls. We were in the middle of the pandemic and the unfortunate tragedy and murder of George Floyd sparked a real need for change — and that’s globally. That’s not an Adidas thing or a corporation thing, it’s a people thing. The 12 of us who really took this really seriously — we don’t represent everyone — it just came together very authentically. It was what was happening around us. We felt a responsibility to really incite that.”

Eric Wise, Adidas, FN CEO Summit
Samantha McDonald and Eric Wise

Accountability Matters:

“None of this can happen without some of us having some kind of accountability. What we’ve done is two-fold – one is have an internal accountability committee. We have that here locally and also globally. We have leaders from the board level and all across the globe who are helping making sure we are accountable. From a hiring standpoint, we’ve made amazing strides. There’s a lot of positive momentum. We have a long way to go to get to where we want to be. I feel really good about it, there’s a lot more to come.”

Education is Key

“There’s an education and awareness that needs to happen for all people. If you take it to the workplace, obviously those conversations, up until about a year ago, have been few and and far in between. [We need] to continue to have those conversations, continue to educate and bring awareness to things that are happening.

Empathy Is Critical:

“We need to make sure we’re empathetic for teammates, and that we serve as people leaders. Everyone’s going through something different. What I learned through the pandemic is everyone is going through something different at different times. At the end of the day, as long as we’re listening to people, and people feel like [they] have a safe space, the better we will be. The more we listen, the more solutions we have. People want to be heard.”

Diversity Is Everything:

“Diversity has been something as a brand we’ve stood behind. That was always really prevalent to me. We found more opportunities to get even better. Understanding that Gen Z is the most diverse consumer base ever, [the focus will be] what we do internally to mirror what our consumer base is. The biggest thing for me is how we make an impact in communities. A lot of people who look like me don’t have awareness or access. How do we continue as an industry to show that these opportunities are there?”

The Future:

“We’re just getting started. We’re humble and honest about the work we have to do. As a brand, how can we continue to be better internally? How do we impact communities globally? [It’s about] how we educate, keep people aware and elevate and lift up communities in the U.S. and globally.”

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