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Nike Shareholders Want More Proof of Diversity and Inclusion Advancements

Nike is facing pressure from shareholders to ramp up diversity, equity, and inclusion disclosures.

In its annual proxy statement filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it was revealed that shareholders requested that Nike publish an annual report assessing its progress on certain DEI initiatives. This report would include, 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 addition to DEI initiatives, the filing also outlined a number of items that shareholders will vote on in their annual meeting on Oct. 6. Shareholders will 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.

“Although we have made good progress with respect to DE&I, we know there is more work to be done and will continue to focus on recruitment, promotion, and retention to drive increased representation, including at the senior levels of the Company,” Nike said in the filing.

Nike is currently not among the 71% of S&P 100 companies that release their EEO-1 forms disclosing workforce composition. Though Nike releases its own annual Impact Report, 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 said it would start disclosing EEO-1 data for 2021, though maintained that the company does “not use the EEO-1 Data to measure progress or believe it is appropriate to do so.”

Nike does not release data on the hiring, retention, or promotion of diverse employees, shareholders noted.

Footwear News has reached out to Nike for a comment.

“Investors seek quantitative, comparable data to understand the effectiveness of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs within and between companies,” read a statement in support of the proposal. The filing also cited examples of previously reported allegations of harassment and discrimination at Nike related to gender, race, and gender identity.

Shareholder advocacy group As You Sow previously pressured Nike and other companies to share similar metrics, arguing 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.  Last July, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer called upon companies such as Walmart, Target, Amazon, and Nike to publicly disclose their EEO-1 data.

Despite the pressure, 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.

Nike currently 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. In its 2020 Impact Report, Nike reported a 5.16% increase in the share of racial and ethnic minorities in its overall workforce in 2020 and a 13.38% increase at the VP level.
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