Shareholders see success with push for racial justice testing

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Investors who push for social change in the companies they invest in are having some success.

The latest example came Thursday when JP Morgan Chase agreed to conduct a racial justice review to determine how its practices affect employees and other stakeholders. The audit will review activities related to the company’s $30 billion race capital commitment.

The scrutiny was proposed in a shareholder proposal backed by SOC Investment Group, which represents unions with a combined $250 billion in pensions and other assets, and advocacy group SHARE. The proposal was withdrawn after JP Morgan pledged to conduct an independent review by the end of the year

Brian Lamb, global head of diversity, equity and inclusion at JP Morgan Chase, said in a statement that the audit will help the company meet its commitment to racial justice “and that we have the resources to drive racial justice forward.”

Dieter Waizenegger, managing director of SOC Investment Group, described this as a step in the right direction in an emailed statement.

At Apple Inc., nearly 54% of shareholders on March 4 approved a similar civil liberties review proposal backed by SOC Investment Group and Trillium Asset Management.

The move was backed by Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages the 12.34 trillion Norwegian kroner (US$1.37 trillion) Government Pension Fund Global in Oslo; the $319.8 California State Teachers’ Pension Scheme, West Sacramento; $274.7 billion for New York City pension schemes; and the $251.7 billion State Board of Administration of Florida, Tallahassee, SOC Investment Group spokeswoman Tian Weinberg said in an email.

“As support for civil rights and racial equality reviews grows in the business community, shareholders expect the nation’s most powerful corporations and financial institutions to engage in open and honest assessments of the impact of racism on their products and services, not just to promote them to protect long-term interests, but to identify new growth areas,” said Mr. Waizenegger.

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