Features

Antonio D. Robinson – Carter’s  

Making a world of difference at Carter's  

So many young people wear more than just their hearts on their sleeves. They also want clothing that adheres to their social conscience, and Antonio D. Robinson plays a vital role in making such merchandise available.  

Antonio D. Robinson | Senior VP, General Counsel, Secretary, Compliance Officer  | Carter's  

Antonio D. Robinson | Senior VP, General Counsel, Secretary, Compliance Officer  | Carter’s

He wears many proverbial hats; Robinson is senior vice president, general counsel, corporate secretary, and chief compliance officer at Carter’s, the largest branded marketer of clothing and accessories for babies, children, teenagers, and young adults. His fancy letterhead notwithstanding, he says it comes down to recognizing these demographics and what their parents are about. As a middle-aged Black man, it gives him hope for a better tomorrow.    

“We understand that Gen Z is the most diverse generation in our country’s history and makes decisions based on their values that include inclusivity,” the affable Robinson tells Vanguard from Atlanta headquarters in March as an early spring enhances demand for the new season’s styles. “As such, we want to ensure that our products, marketing efforts, and retail experiences reflect our commitment to authentically welcoming diverse consumers to shop our brands.”  

One’s got to practice what one preaches, he emphasizes. The Company is committed to hiring and promoting from the broadest and deepest talent pool, and Robinson, whose background is in employment law, advises the human resources department on progressive personnel policies. Then, there’s him weighing in on philanthropy and assisting the business side in identifying vendors who share Carter’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.   

“We also focus on uplifting the communities in which we operate and where our employees live,” he says. “Our efforts focus on early childhood education and literacy, which we believe provides every child an opportunity to succeed regardless of their neighborhood.”  

Sustaining sustainability  

Right up there with diversity and inclusion among contemporary social concerns, especially with Gen Z, is sustainability, which promoted Carter’s to introduce its Little Planet brand, focused on organic materials, primarily for babies and toddlers. All the better, the Company understands that providing eco-friendly apparel supports consumers’ goals of ensuring a sustainable future for this and future generations of children.   

For Robinson and the approximately 25 staffers under his wing, it’s a growing responsibility, with responsible sourcing, sustainability, and ESG—the environmental, social, governance acronym—being more than just marketing terms. Third-party certificates and verification must support marketing claims. The Company also registers trademarks, sources more traceable and sustainable raw materials, supports the sustainability goals of partners such as Walmart’s Project Gigaton, and ensures the product and packaging meet children’s product quality and safety standards.  

“Because I strive to proactively enable compliance with the rules and regulations impacting our business, I consistently leverage various tools to understand the legislative agendas of multiple governments and impending regulations,” he says. That said, it has been challenging to identify one resource that facilitates the speed at which I seek to understand and leverage our ability to meet our compliance obligations.”  

But that’s fine because, as Robinson says, his favorite responsibility is to use the legal department to support business expansion while navigating risk. According to him, there’s something satisfying about in-house corporate law in how it enables an attorney to immerse in projects from conception to completion and gauge the consequences.  

And there’s so much to do in the new retail world, which has evolved since he joined Carter’s in 2010 after over a dozen years as an associate at two Southeast law firms and a partner at a third. Asked about his biggest concerns, Robinson says that with so many retailers expanding their real estate portfolios, he noted the need to stay current on the rapidly evolving regulatory environment globally and domestically.   

Then there’s the matter of artificial intelligence and all its complexities entering the business model. It’s no stranger at Carter’s, where, for years, the Company has leveraged billing technology and compliance training tools that provide actionable analysis.    

Now, Robinson explains, the legal department is investigating generative AI in contract management and other areas. He doesn’t want his department perceived as a cost center.  

“We are focused on improving departmental efficiency and how to best leverage our technology,” he says. “We want to reduce low-value legal work, support faster decision-making and automate more administrative activities. We also want to enhance and protect the Company’s reputation through compliance and sustainability initiatives.”  

Always means business  

Such concerns didn’t weigh as heavily on Robinson when advising business clients after graduating from the Southern University Law Center in 1998, four years after finishing his pre-law poli-sci and English majors at Louisiana Tech University. In private law firms, one manages discrete issues for client after client, which Robinson found exhilarating at times, but after stretches of a few years each with Jones Walker in Louisiana and the Atlanta firms of Jackson Lewis and Littler Mendelson, the idea of a soup-to-nuts role with one client—his employer—seemed appealing.  

Not that it would be any less challenging, but it would allow him to forego the billable hour game and focus on enhancing value within the Company. All the better, Robinson says that it was with a company that shared his commitment to a progressive future that was strengthened as a Louisiana Tech undergrad.  

Originally a pre-med major, Robinson—without going into detail—says that during his senior year, he encountered a situation he deemed unjust and shifted his focus to law. Not having any lawyers in his family, Robinson attended SULC based on the recommendation of an alum. When he first attended SULC, few blue-chip firms recruited on campus.  

“That sentiment began to change during my time in school,” he says. “Throughout my career, I have introduced many to the type of lawyers being produced by SULC, noting that many had no knowledge of or experience working with lawyers from Southern.”  

His upbringing factored in overcoming obstacles, with Robinson explaining how his mother taught his sister and him the value of commitment and hard work. He shares the same values with his two children, emphasizing his appetite for continuous learning, which he expects from those he hires.  

Early in his career, Robinson wrote a personal and professional development plan that included achieving a law-firm partnership and moving in-house, and those boxes have now been checked. At Carter’s, he says one of his passions is encouraging his team members to similarly strategize about their careers, and he’s there to assist them.  

That, too, is sustainability, which transcends material items. Robinson seems to practice personally and professionally.  

“Recently, a few of my fraternity brothers started a book club to expand our efforts to learn new things and strengthen our brotherhood,” he says.  

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring II 2024 Edition here.

 

Published on: April 15, 2024

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