Big US Companies Pushed to Tally Progress on Racial Justice

The killing of George Floyd prompted a wave of promises from corporate America to advance racial equity. Nearly a year later, large U.S. companies are under pressure to show progress on fulfilling those promises.

Shareholders will vote in the coming weeks on some of those initiatives, including whether Walmart should report on the fairness of its pay scale and whether Facebook and Google/Alphabet should appoint a civil rights specialist to their boards.

Another frequently proposed option is a racial equity audit that compares a company’s record with statements made in its glossy marketing materials.

Proponents characterize this report as a risk-management tool that can help protect brands.

“There are a good number of shareholders that recognize that this is an issue that could cause some reputational damage on a significant level,” said Tejal Patel, corporate governance director at CtW Investment Group, an activist group that organized the drive at several leading companies.

Proposals calling for a racial equity audit garnered support of around 30% or more of shareholders at several large companies, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson. And later this month, Amazon shareholders will weigh a similar audit plan.