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Activist Investment Platform Pens Letter to Nike Board Over Worker Rights Concerns

A landscape image of Nike Inc.'s World Headquarters
Nike Inc. World Headquarters (Nike)

Tulipshare, a London-based platform representing investors’ interests on social and environmental causes, sent a letter to Nike’s board of directors Monday reiterating calls for improved transparency and respect for human rights in its supply chain and expressing “grave concern” for the sportswear giant’s lack of response to previous outreach attempts.

A copy of the letter reviewed by BoF calls on Nike to publicly disclose details of its purchasing practices, such as ring-fencing labour costs; adopt model contract clauses for protecting workers developed by the American Bar Association in its supplier contracts; work with trade unions to improve freedom of association and enter enforceable labour rights agreements; and demonstrate a concrete remediation procedure for human rights abuses that tackles the root causes of incidents.

“This is a very salient risk to the company, whether you’re speaking [about] legal, financial [or] reputational,” said Constance Ricketts, Tulipshare’s head of shareholder activism. “We really want Nike to to address these concerns and to take proactive steps to make sure that these violations do not continue to persist in their supply chains.”

Tulipshare said it first reached out to Nike with a letter to its Investor Relations team on Mar. 4, 2022, and again on Oct. 21, 2022 and Jan. 27, 2023, but did not received a response. (Nike did not immediately respond to BoF’s request for comment.)

If Nike continues to not respond to the letters, Tulipshare will file a proposal ahead of Nike’s next shareholder meeting calling for the company take action on the issue, said Ricketts.

This move adds to growing momentum behind efforts to take Nike to task over the treatment of workers in its supply chains. Last week, a group of 20 garment-sector unions and two labour-rights organisations filed an OECD complaint alleging that Nike violated guidelines for responsible business conduct that are endorsed by the intergovernmental organisation.

Tulipshare currently owns 276 Nike shares, according to its website. It’s a drop in the ocean compared to Nike’s more than 1.5 billion total shares outstanding, which are predominantly owned by institutional investors, but Ricketts said she hopes to see individual investors take a more proactive approach to exercising their rights and galvanise support among institutional investors if it resorts to filing a shareholder proposal.

There is precedent for small parties of activist investors successfully putting pressure on large companies. Earlier this year, Tulipshare was part of a coalition of investors that successfully campaigned for tech giant Apple to disclose and clarify its decisions to remove certain apps from its App Store. The investment platform also has an ongoing campaign for Capri Holdings, owner of Michael Kors, Versace and Jimmy Choo, to improve its environmental reporting and disclosures, which has so far amounted to constructive dialogue and “very meaningful engagement” with the company, said Ricketts.

Learn more:

Garment Workers Demanding Unpaid Wages From Nike Take Their Fight to the World Stage

A group of 20 garment-worker unions and two labour-rights groups filed a complaint alleging the sportswear giant’s treatment of workers and unpaid wages violated OECD guidelines for responsible business conduct.

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