Foot Locker Inc. is less than a year into its announcement of a planned investment of $200 million into the Black community, and it’s offering a peek into its progress so far.
Last June, after the tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black men and women sparked heightened attention around the issue of racial injustice in America, Foot Locker was among the many fashion and footwear firms that stepped up to offer support to the Black community by way of monetary and other commitments.
But beyond a sharing simple statement on social media, the New York-based athletic retailer announced it would invest $200 million over the next five years toward economic development and educational initiatives, to help counteract the stark disparities in opportunity for Black young people and entrepreneurs.
As part of that commitment, the company promised transparency around its efforts, with an annual report card outlining its specific actions. The first report card was presented today, revealing the progress in what the firm is calling LEED (Lead Education and Economic Development).
One of the key elements of the LEED initiative is economic development and creating a stronger pipeline for Black creators and entrepreneurs to build successful businesses. To that end, Foot Locker made a $5 million investment in MaC Venture Capital, a Black-led VC firm dedicated to advancing business with diverse leaders.
It also has partnered with 34 new Black brands and creators for collaborations in 2021. And it is growing its ongoing relationship with Pensole Footwear Design Academy, a minority-focused design school founded by 2020 Footwear News Achievement Awards honoree D’Wayne Edwards, by committing $750,000 to help train the next generation of shoe designers.
Also in regard to educational initiatives, the retailer said it has donated $150,000 to longtime partner UNCF, to provide double the number of scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year.
And within its own organization, Foot Locker is committed to creating educational and professional opportunities for its store employees, many of whom are high school and college students. This year, the company dedicated 50 additional Foot Locker Associate Scholarships — totaling $250,000 — to Black team members over the next five years. And it established 30 new internships through its Bridge Internship Program, which provides a path for store team members to rise into corporate positions.
In recent years, Foot Locker chairman and CEO Dick Johnson has been vocal in his commitment to creating greater equity and inclusion in the footwear industry. In an open letter in June, he acknowledged the debt that his company owes to the Black community. “We recognize that Black culture plays a pivotal role in shaping sneaker culture — the foundation of our business at Foot Locker Inc.,” he wrote.
And in a 2019 interview with FN, Johnson also acknowledged the work that needs to be done within his own Foot Locker organization to improve diversity at all levels. “We have an incredibly diverse workforce in our stores,” he said. “But as you go up the food chain, we’re a little bit less diverse. We’re working hard to advance opportunities for candidates and create an environment where people feel like they belong and bring benefit to the company, where they’re heard and understood.”