Nike Promotes Its Environmental Efforts. Why Then Does Phil Knight Endorse A Friend Of The Logging Industry?

The footwear and clothing juggernaut Nike, with its corporate headquarters in Oregon, has been working recently to improve — some would say greenwash — its image through sustainability programs.

As part of the company’s “Move to Zero” initiative, forests are one of the most crucial natural resources in the fight against climate change. Nike claims to have supported the planting of more than 1.4 million trees in Brazil and Ethiopia thanks to a collaboration with the worldwide reforestation group WeForest.

Additionally, to make up for emissions related to delivering its goods, the company has purchased forest carbon offsets from EFM, Portland-based investment management, in its home state of Oregon.

But even as Nike positions itself as a defender of forests and a partner in the worldwide fight against climate change, Phil Knight, the company’s billionaire co-founder, and chairman emeritus, is giving a tonne of cash to one of the most important political supporters of Oregon’s logging sector.

Stunning $1.75 million has been donated by Knight to former state senator and timber heiress Betsy Johnson’s campaign for governor of Oregon. Johnson, 71, has a history of serving the needs of extractive businesses, particularly the logging industry, which is quite powerful in Oregon and gave her and her family a comfortable lifestyle. Recent pro-logging activists in the state with connections to many right-wing extremist groups have praised her for her deference and even given her a medal for it.

Johnson shook up the contest for governor late last year when she quit the Democratic Party, left the Oregon legislature where she had been a member of the influential joint ways and means committee of the Senate, and declared her independent candidacy.

Johnson obtained and turned in the necessary 23,744 valid signatures late last month, making him formally eligible to run for office in November. She is up against Republican Christine Drazan, a former minority leader in the Oregon House of Representatives, and Democrats Tina Kotek, a former speaker of that body.

Since 1987, Oregon has had a Democratic governor, and the state has never before elected a third- or unaffiliated-party candidate. Due to term restrictions, the country’s most unpopular governor, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, is unable to run for reelection.

In a sea of extremists, Johnson positions herself as a centrist who can lead from the center and establish common ground during a period of ferocious political divide. During a candidate discussion in July, she stated, “To do that, we need to restore the maverick spirit, break free from the straitjacket of radicalism and party politics.” “We need to return power to the people.”

Nike Promotes Its Environmental Efforts. Why Then Does Phil Knight Endorse A Friend Of The Logging Industry
Nike Promotes Its Environmental Efforts. Why Then Does Phil Knight Endorse A Friend Of The Logging Industry

In a divided state like Oregon, it may be a persuasive message. Actors are uneasy about her climate record and connections to industry.

According to Steve Perry, conservation director for Portland-based environmental organization Oregon Wild, “we are all a little scared here in the environmental community.” 401(c)4 nonprofit Oregon Wild Conservation Leaders Fund is the organization behind the anti-Johnson website “Corporate Bought Betsy.”

Peter asserted that she had “contempt” for forestry interests that have adopted more ethical and environmental techniques, adding that “her background and political associations are with the worst of the worst logging sector companies out here.”

HuffPost’s attempts for comment from Johnson’s campaign were not met.

Knight could not be reached through a Nike spokeswoman. Nike did not answer HuffPost’s requests for comment regarding the contributions of its founder and how they relate to the business’s forestry programs in Oregon and elsewhere.

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