Footwear and athletic retailer Foot Locker began National Black Business Month in a big way. announcing it has invested close to $54 million in the Black community through its fiscal year ending in 2021.
NBC News reported that the investment was made by Foot Locker to fund the Leading Educational and Economic Development Initiative (LEED). Launched in 2020, the initiative works to expand programming for Black students while increasing efforts to work with Black businesses, including nonprofits, creatives and vendors.
The LEED initiative is part of Foot Locker’s $200 million pledge to empower and assist the Black community.
“Our commitment to the Black community goes beyond words and is part of how we do business,” Foot Locker Chairman and CEO Richard Johnson said in a statement. “Through strategic investments, community partnerships, and opportunities that empower, we are taking actionable steps to drive meaningful and lasting change both within our organization and in the communities we serve.”
Foot Locker’s LEED initiative has empowered Black designers and entrepreneurs by investing more than $15 million in Black-owned brands. These include Abeille Creations, which worked with the apparel giant to design custom athletic gear. LEED also invested $10.8 million with seven Black-led venture capital firms and Black-owned vendors.
Foot Locker’s funding is also helping its employees further their education. Through LEED, the retailer added 10 annual scholarships to its $50,000 scholarship program for store associates. LEED also oversees the Bridge Internship program, which prepares store associates to advance their careers into corporate positions, and has started a financial literacy course for Foot Locker employees.
The athletic retailer has also expanded its efforts globally through its Foot Locker Foundation Community Empowerment Program, a partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). The second round will provide grants between $25,000 and $100,000 to organizations in 12 cities to help advance Black communities.
LISC CEO Lisa Glover acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for Black Americans and Foot Locker has recognized it needs to help.
“The past few years have been difficult for young people—particularly in Black and Brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” Glover said in a statement in January.
“In establishing this program, Foot Locker, Inc. has recognized the ongoing impact of systemic racism, prioritized the needs of teens and young adults, and committed capital to on-the-ground strategies that directly address the local challenges.”