How Nike is Building on Diversity and Inclusion to Advance Sustainability

February 10th, 2022
10:15 AM

There is a clear connection between how a company shows up for people — its employees, its consumers and the communities it operates in — and how it shows up for the planet. For Nike, honoring that intersectionality is key to the company’s ethos and its ability to create and innovate, says Felicia Mayo, Chief Talent, Diversity and Culture Officer.

Here, Mayo dives deeper into why Nike believes in building a culture of belonging, rooted in diversity and inclusion, and one of responsibility, and how this adds up to building stronger teams and creating solutions that are better for athletes* and for the planet.

*Nike’s mission states “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

Building Innovation Through Diversity

Our most sustainable products build on brilliant innovation — and you can’t have that without diverse teams. Varied perspectives allow new ways of hearing and seeing things, through different lenses, and that challenges the status quo.

To build team diversity, we’re increasing our hiring in all demographics to ensure that we mirror the consumers and communities we serve and the athletes we honor. For example, one of our 2025 goals is to hit 50% female representation in the global corporate workforce and 45% representation in leadership positions. We’ve increased representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. to more than 29% of our VP leadership team — an 8% increase in the last two years — and aim to reach 35% by 2025.

In addition, by 2025, we will invest $10 million toward historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) in the form of scholarships and academic partnerships to increase intern and direct hires. Our hope is that we create a talent pipeline that fuels our sustainable innovation, like the next Alphafly Zoom Next Nature or our next Nike Refurbished program.

Stoking a Culture of Responsibility

To serve athletes we have an obligation to protect the planet, our ultimate playground, which takes all parts of our business understanding the challenges and focused on solutions. We must inspire and drive an enterprise-wide employee culture of responsibility.

Doing Right By People and Planet

I look at young people, and the top thing they want to know is whether a brand aligns with their values — how does a brand consider diversity, equity and inclusion? What is its social impact to communities? How much does it value sustainability? Younger generations vote with their dollar for the companies doing right by people and the planet. I see this in my own home with my kids. They’re incredibly selective about the products they wear, based off what brands stand for. And that’s where, guided by its values, Nike is delivering threefold — to employees, to the environment and to our consumers.

Finding Solutions that Help Diverse Communities

We know that climate change disproportionally affects communities of color, and that fact hits home for me. I grew up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and I’ve seen the progressively extreme and frequent hurricanes decimate my hometown’s predominantly Black neighborhoods. It’s also a factory town, and growing up many people I knew had breathing problems and asthma due to the pollutants in the air, including my father.

This makes me even more invested in the conversations we’re having at Nike about how our actions as a company affect the environment and the communities we serve. One partnership I’m particularly excited about is with Solstice. This BIPOC-led nonprofit is in our Until We All Win portfolio, a collection of organizations we support through grants and that are chosen with the help of NikeUNITED, our eight employee networks. Solstice empowers low-income and diverse communities by providing accessible and affordable community solar projects, enabling a clean-energy transition.

This is just one example of how we’re in a unique position to lead change, leveraging our scale at the intersection of equality and sustainability, to create a future that’s healthy and just for all athletes.

Seeing a Challenge, Not an Obstacle

Increasing Nike’s representation, our diversity and our commitment to the planet takes doing away with the old ways in favor of smarter, better ways of thinking. Topics as large and complex as these require relentless collaboration, and it can be a space of uncertainty — but I love that space, because I believe it’s where you’re pushed to innovate. And it’s within that unknown yet promising place that I think we can all thrive and find purpose.