Nike’s hiring of Shell International troubleshooter Yvonne Ywaniuk
is a firm signal that the beleaguered shoe manufacturer is putting the
trials of the last couple of years firmly behind it. Nike hasn’t had an
easy time what with allegations that it employed Third World ’sweatshop’
workers to manufacturer overpriced footwear, the controversy surrounding
its Brazilian World Cup sponsorship, and last year having to report its
first substantial loss in a decade.
Ywaniuk should feel at home, however, having weathered at least some of
the fallout from the public storms over Shell’s human rights record in
Nigeria and the Brent Spar affair.
At the time of the Asian crisis, Nike PR manager Graham Anderson
admitted to PR Week that the leading shoe manufacturer had failed to
properly communicate its attempts to clean up its ethical record.
However, the company has been working hard on the social responsibility
front with the unveiling of a package last year including a plan to
improve working conditions at 150 Asian factories, education programmes,
loans to entrepreneurs and university research funding.
Social investment is undoubtedly high on the corporate agenda at the
moment. Only last month BSkyB announced its involvement in youth
outreach projects in a bid to bring some warmth to its controversial
But corporate responsibility campaigns and social investment can become
a costly and ineffective gesture if not tied firmly back to a well
defined reputation management strategy. However, Ywaniuk’s appointment
to this new umbrella role, places social investment in its rightful
place in the management structure - alongside public affairs, and