Throughout the process of pulling this report together, I’ve been thinking a great deal about what it means to lead in a time of such dramatic change. It’s moments like these that offer the opportunity to hit the pause button and ask the big questions. Is it possible to grow the Nike brand into new markets while leaving a smaller footprint? As we transform our business model to move faster and be more consumer-centric, how does that affect a sophisticated value chain that employs over a million workers and delivers over a billion units a year? And how can we challenge ourselves to cultivate a company culture that is more inclusive and empowering? What policies and practices will accelerate the pace of change within our own teams?
This report covers many of these complex challenges. It reveals our flaws and shines a light on our victories. Most importantly, it tells us where we need to work harder. What keeps us going is this simple belief: when Nike creates meaningful change within our own company and within the communities that we serve, we make a positive difference in the world. We expand our purpose as a company.
Next year will be my 40th with Nike and I’ve seen our company’s purpose evolve over the decades. When I started as a designer in our Exeter, New Hampshire research lab, that purpose was simple: innovate for the athlete.
As we grew, we learned our purpose was greater. We realized we should serve all athletes, even those that don’t consider themselves one and just want to move. We celebrated the benefits of sport, of fitness, of the joy of a run, the thrill of a goal, or the emotion of a gold. And we took a stand against discrimination because we believe everyone should have a right to sport and to a level playing field. After Nike fought for Title IX and lobbied for the first Olympic women’s marathon event in 1984, one of my proudest personal sport moments was hearing the roar of the crowd when Joan Benoit Samuelson emerged from the dark tunnel into the LA Colosseum to cross the finish line first.
As Nike’s place in the world became larger and more important, we learned that it wasn’t enough to just create great product for the athlete. By the 1990s we were hit with allegations of poor working conditions in our supply chain. We vowed we’d disrupt ourselves, and the industry, and invent new ways to run supply chains, new ways to create products. We also heeded the science of climate change, seeing the threat it could pose to our athletes – without clean air, how do we run or play? With extreme weather, how do we compete? So, we set a moonshot – to double our business while halving our environmental impact. That sense of mission has taken us on a journey of innovation, revolutionizing factory floors, business models, materials, and processes. It’s driven us to partner in unusual ways, and to lobby for change across the industry.
So what is Nike’s greater purpose in the world today – in an age of extreme polarization; of vanishing resources; of hyper-speed and digital disruption?
Our purpose is to use the power of sport to move the world forward. We believe in a fair, sustainable future – one where everyone thrives on a healthy planet and a level playing field. We’re advocating and investing in bringing sport back into kids’ lives. We’re innovating a new business model for the 21st century, in which supply chains are lean, green, equitable, and fair, and our materials and products are sustainable.
And now, with more determination than ever, we’re creating a company culture where everyone has an opportunity to play an important role and be successful. We’re measuring ourselves against three areas: diverse representation and an inclusive community that embraces it; comprehensive, equitable pay and benefits; and employee development and wellbeing.
This report is filled with detail on how far Nike has come on all of these goals, and how far we have yet to go. Our focus will continue to be on the areas where we can use sport and our unique strengths to drive the highest impact. We’ll stay open to unexpected partnerships that will move us closer to our goals, faster. And we’ll continue to disrupt ourselves to evolve and reaffirm Nike’s greater purpose in the world.