In November 2020 United Church Funds (UCF), alongside shareholder advocacy group, As You Sow, co-filed a shareholder resolution asking for more data on the effectiveness of American Express’s (AXP) diversity and inclusion program. AXP’s board opposed the resolution, as did Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, which holds a 19% stake. Despite this opposition, a strong 60% majority of shareholders voted in favor of the resolution at the recent annual general meeting.
UCF and As You Sow filed a similar resolution with UnitedHealth Group (UHG). However, we agreed to withdraw the resolution before going to vote based on UHG’s commitment to publicly disclose its employee retention data by race, ethnicity and gender in 2022, as well as employee promotion data with similar breakdowns in 2023.
UCF believes that the promotion of corporate DEI transparency helps to reveal the deep roots of structural racism and to take positive action steps. According to Matthew Illian, UCF’s Director of Responsible Investing, “Large companies in the world are now expected to disclose standardized data that will help investors assess how the companies are performing on diversity and inclusion from the bottom to the top.”
In 2020, UCF affirmed its commitment to racial justice by signing the Racial Justice Investing Statement. Through this statement, UCF acknowledges the critical role that the investment community has played in sustaining structural racial inequity and commits to “integrating racial justice into investment decision-making and engagement strategies.”
The American Express shareholder resolution was filed to highlight the fact that the company lagged its peers in DEI reporting. Before the vote was taken, AXP had still not released its consolidated EEO-1 form, the best-practice standard for workforce composition disclosure. Among companies that AXP identifies as peers in its proxy statement, 75% currently release EEO-1 data.
UCF will continue to work with partners and on behalf of our clients to ensure that their investments make a positive impact on people’s lives, communities and the world.