Board Racial Diversity Disclosure: Letter Campaign to Entire Russell 3000!
Yesterday, I blogged about a letter-writing campaign focused on climate lobbying disclosure. With diversity disclosure getting a lot of attention these days, there’s now another effort focused on that, too. The “Russell 3000 Board Diversity Disclosure Initiative” issued a press release saying the group is calling on Russell 3000 companies to disclose the racial/ethnic and gender composition of their boards in 2021 proxy statement filings. The initiative is being led by the State Treasurers of Illinois and Connecticut, and includes investors representing over $3 trillion in assets under management. Here’s an excerpt about the initiative from the Illinois Treasurer’s website:
Many institutional investors, including the Illinois Treasurer, have advocated for gender diversity on corporate boards through proxy voting policies and through direct shareholder-company engagement. These actions, now broadly adopted by institutional investors across the world, have helped generate an increase in gender diversity on corporate boards. The lack of data on racial/ethnic composition, however, makes it difficult to apply the same tools and creates unnecessary barriers to investment analysis and academic study.
The Black Lives Matter movement and the widespread outrage sparked by the murder of George Floyd have prompted a national conversation on issues of racial equity and inclusion. Many companies have issued statements in support of racial justice, and in some cases announced responsive efforts at their operations. This initiative urges companies to harness this national movement and the momentum on gender diversity to consider publicly reporting the racial/ethnic and gender composition of the Board of Directors in their annual proxy statement for the 2021 filing.
Members of the initiative have or are examining policies to vote against nominating committees with no reported racial/ethnic diversity in their proxy statements and expanding more direct shareholder engagement. Members agree that voluntary corporate reporting in the proxy statement is the most reliable data source.
The website includes a sample letter sent to Russell 3000 companies, and the letter includes a proxy statement excerpt as an example of the disclosure the group would like to see. The example shows racial/ethnic and gender information by director as additional information at the bottom of a “director skills matrix.” We’ve blogged before about potentially gathering some of this information as part of annual D&O questionnaires, and it looks like more companies could be headed down that path…
-Lynn Jokela, TheCorporateCounsel.net October 30, 2020
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