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Nike Beats Apparel and Retail Competitors in New ESG Ranking

Nike may continue to face associations with forced labor on Instagram, but that hasn’t stopped it from beating out its U.S. competitors in 3BL Media’s recent ranking of the country’s top corporate citizens.

The Beaverton, Ore.-based business nabbed the highest spot of any footwear or apparel company in the communication firm’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens Tuesday. The list evaluated the 1,000 largest, publicly traded U.S. companies on environmental, social and governance (ESG) transparency and performance.

Nike, with an overall weighted score of 80.46, ranked 18th overall, one spot higher than last year. VF Corp., the company behind The North Face, Timberland and Vans, jumped eight slots with a score of 78.93—25th among all the evaluated companies and right ahead of Target Corp.’s 78.81. Gap Inc. climbed 10 spots to 32nd place with a 78.26. Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein parent PVH Corp. scored a 76.51, 45th overall, far higher than last year’s 64th. Walmart Inc. joined the top 100 with a score of 73.92 putting it in 75th place.

3BL Media assessed each company using only publicly available information, including corporate websites, sustainability reports and SEC filings. It also relied on information from “reputable third parties,” such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Global Reporting Initiative and the U.N. Global Compact. It did not rely on any survey or questionnaire and there were no costs of fees to be researched and ranked. The firm’s partner ISS ESG conducted the research and processed the ranking.

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The final score weighted employee-related factors the highest, at 20.5 percent, followed by the environment, 18 percent; climate change, 17 percent; stakeholders and society, 12.5 percent; human rights, 11 percent; ESG performance, 8 percent; governance, 7.5 percent; and financial 4.5 percent.

The ranking includes two opportunities for a company to receive a 10-point penalty: if InfluenceMap deems it to have a high lobbying intensity in opposition of Paris Climate Agreement-aligned policy benchmarks—new this year—and if ISS ESG identified a “severe” or “very severe” controversy. (Nike’s most recent imbroglio wasn’t even its fault.)

3BL Media’s 2021 methodology increased and decreased the weight of multiple factors across most categories compared to last year. “Does the company disclose its total direct [greenhouse gas] emissions,” for example, went up in weight, while “Does the company disclose targets for reducing GHG emissions,” went down.

The ranking included several new factors, however, in the “employees” pillar, including “Does the company’s labor rights policy address discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression,” “Does the company’s disclosed information on workforce equality include data on equality for senior management” and “Does the company provide workforce demographic disclosure?”