Nike's decision not to publicly release its annual corporate responsibility report is a shame. Yes, the move is understandable, following the California Supreme Court ruling that effectively gives anyone in the state of California license to sue the company over the accuracy of its PR content. But do the risks of distributing this important document really outweigh the benefits?
Nike has made groundbreaking strides toward transparency and social responsibility that are an example to corporate America, which in general has been slow to take up these issues. Other companies have and will take their lead from Nike on how to address the concerns of external audiences. It is frustrating that these efforts must now be derailed.
The threat of litigation is seemingly a more powerful force than public opinion. For Nike, a company that knows the influence of both, the choice between protecting the company and communicating transparently with stakeholders is brutal. But in spite of the ruling, Nike must still find ways to speak out on these serious issues. The company must defend and exercise its constitutional rights with a profound sense of urgency, and should seek opportunities to make its case, rather than resist them. The PR community fully supports Nike's position against this patently unfair ruling. Nike should not let the PR community down by suppressing its message.