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Capital Group calls for diversity data from portfolio companies - letter

Simon Jessop and Ross Kerber
·2 min read

* Capital CEO writes to more than 1,500 boards

* Calls for better disclosure of workforce data

* Backs release of E-001 data in the United States

By Simon Jessop and Ross Kerber

LONDON, March 5 (Reuters) - Capital Group, one of the world's largest providers of actively managed mutual funds, has written to more than 1,500 companies calling for them to disclose more data on the diversity of their workforce.

It is the first time that Capital has laid out its position on corporate diversity to company executives in this way and follows similar calls from other asset managers in response to growing concerns in society over inequality.

In a letter dated Feb. 1 and seen by Reuters, Capital's Chief Executive Rob Lovelace said diverse teams help to improve financial performance, boost productivity and ensure companies remained relevant to an increasingly diverse customer base.

While managing the process "can be complex", Lovelace, whose firm manages more than $2.1 trillion in assets, said it was part of the firm's fiduciary duty to understand how a company was performing on the issue and to engage with corporate laggards.

Those doing well treated diversity as a business priority, including board-level oversight of the strategy, executive-level sponsorship and a public policy detailing specific actions, goals and targets.

"We encourage all portfolio companies to disclose the demographics of their workforce and board in a regionally appropriate manner, including gender, racial, and ethnic demographics at different levels of seniority.

"For example, we expect U.S. companies to make public EEO-1 or equivalent reporting on their U.S. employees and, where feasible, to disclose similar information for other segments of the workforce."

Lovelace said he expected portfolio companies in developed markets to have boardroom diversity "consistent with local market best practice", although he stopped short of calling for specific targets.

In the United States, amid growing demand for better disclosure, exchange operator Nasdaq in December suggested rules that would require listed companies to disclose boardroom diversity statistics and to have at least two diverse directors, although the move has faced political pushback.

Among Capital Group's peers, Vanguard has also baulked at setting specific targets although the asset management arm of Goldman Sachs said it wants its investee companies to have at least one woman and a second director from an under-represented background. (Reporting by Simon Jessop; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)