finance

British fund industry warns companies on ethnic diversity



© Reuters. The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London

By Simon Jessop

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s investment industry trade body has warned companies they must show progress on boardroom ethnic diversity or risk pushback at their 2021 annual general meetings.

The call from the Investment Association, whose members manage 7.7 trillion pounds ($9.88 trillion) and own around a third of British companies, aims to spur greater action to meet the targets set by Britain’s Parker Review into the issue.

Under the targets, companies would aim to have at least one ethnic minority board member by 2021, with every company following by 2024.

Those that fail to disclose either the ethnic make-up of their board or a plan to have at least one ethnic minority member by 2021 would be flagged as a company of concern by the IA’s corporate governance team, it said in a statement.

“The UK’s boardrooms need to reflect the diversity of modern-day Britain,” said Andrew Ninian, Director for Stewardship and Corporate Governance at the Investment Association.

“With three-quarters of FTSE 100 companies failing to report the ethnic make-up of their boards in last year’s AGM season, investors are now calling on companies to take decisive action to meet the Parker Review targets.”

While the IA does not advise investors on how to vote, IVIS, the IA’s Institutional Voting Information Service, instead flags topics of concern at companies to the pension schemes and others that pay for the service.

A ‘Blue Top’ assessment indicates there are no areas of major concern; an ‘Amber Top’ highlights a significant issue to be considered; and a ‘Red Top’ flags a topic of major concern. Breaches of the ethnic guidelines will face an ‘Amber Top’.

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