You might remember when Nike became a controversial brand back in the 90s due to its use of sweatshops. With a single 1997 New York Times expose, its famous swoosh lost its cool icon status, and was no longer a logo people wanted to wear.

Fast forward to today, and Nike has not only recovered, but it’s become one of the most empowering brands on the planet. The company has done a lot in the way of ensuring more ethical production, and lending transparency to their process. 

Today when people (including many of the same people who boycotted the brand in the 90s) think about Nike, they think about sports. They think about fitness. They think about determined everyday runners, and professional athletes. They think about sweating, winning, getting stronger, and with it, the sense that they can just do it too.

Nike Mission Statement
Nike Mission Statement

Today, corporate social responsibility is a core part of Nike’s culture. In fact, the three strategic aims that guide the company are to minimize environmental footprint, transform manufacturing, and unleash human potential.

That human potential component spreads into their hiring and people development as well:

“NIKE, Inc. does more than outfit the world’s best athletes. It is a place to explore potential, obliterate boundaries and push out the edges of what can be. The company looks for people who can grow, think, dream and create. Its culture thrives by embracing diversity and rewarding imagination. The brand seeks achievers, leaders and visionaries. At Nike, it’s about each person bringing skills and passion to a challenging and constantly evolving game.” Nike
Nike Employer Branding
Nike Employer Branding

Nike Is Big on Community, Especially When It Comes to Kids

Nike is huge on supporting community, especially when it comes to getting kids to be physically active. While Nike’s employees get involved face-to-face with local kids, at a corporate level, Nike also nurtures partnerships and collaborations to create change on a global scale.

The company’s 2020 Targets to Unleash Human Potential include investing a minimum of 1.5% of pre-tax income to community projects.

Diversity Is a Huge Priority at Nike

Nike has been capturing headlines for its commitment to employee diversity thanks to a recent in-depth report on its sustainability and employment practices. 

Nike Diversity Transparency
Nike Diversity Transparency

“Workers who identify as non-white comprise just over 50% of Nike’s 32,000 U.S. employees,” Fortune reported. “The company also disclosed that women represent 48% of its global workforce.”

As Nike proudly states on their website:

“We believe breakthrough innovations happen when teams are inclusive and diverse. To serve every athlete individually and completely, across hundreds of countries where we do business, we need teams that reflect the diversity of our consumers and a culture of inclusivity that respects the communities in which we live and work.

We know the best ideas often come from unexpected places and our individual differences bring new perspectives to the table – so we are committed to fostering a workplace that is increasingly diverse and inclusive.”


They’re Serious Proponents of Women Empowerment

Earlier this month we covered Nike’s paid menstrual leave policy, which was instated in 2007. According to the Daily Beast, Nike is the only major international company to offer a policy like that. 

Nike is also a supporter of the Girl Effect, an organization committed to breaking the cycle of global poverty through adolescent girls. You can learn more about the movement here

In another tribute to gender equality, Nike recently announced that they’re offering 8 weeks of paid family leave “to the parents of newborns, adopted or permanently placed children, as well as eight weeks of paid leave to workers caring for a sick relative,” The Wall Street Journal detailed. “It marks the first time Nike will include fathers as part of its paid family leave and extends benefits to expanding families of different types.”

And They’re Highly Committed to Innovation

Nike’s commitment to constant improvement and product creation earned them the coveted title of No. 1 Most Innovative Company by Fast Company in 2013.

They make it a point to remember their scrappy, creative roots, and keep artifacts around their headquarters to remind them where they came from, and their cutting edge innovations over time. 

“The company keeps a Winnebago to use as a conference room in the middle of its Innovation Kitchen because cofounder Phil Knight, according to legend, first sold shoes out of a similar vehicle,” Business Insider explains. “The waffle iron that co-founder Bill Bowerman destroyed while attempting to make rubber soles is kept on campus like a museum piece.”

Nike is a beautiful example of a company that has been able to transform itself from the inside out. If studied more deeply, its evolution can offer countless insights for any business looking to dramatically improve their cultures.