Investors pushing for social change at the companies they invest in are having some success.
The most recent example came Thursday, when J.P. Morgan Chase agreed to conduct a racial equity audit of how its practices affect employees and other stakeholders. The audit will review activities related to the company's $30 billion racial equity commitment.
The audit was proposed in a shareholder proposal backed by SOC investment Group representing unions with a collective $250 billion in pension and other assets, and advocacy group SHARE. The proposal was withdrawn following J.P. Morgan's pledge to conduct an independent audit by the end of the year
Brian Lamb, global head of diversity, equity and inclusion for J.P. Morgan Chase, said in a statement that the audit will help the company meet a commitment to racial equity "and that we have the resources in place to advance racial equity."
Dieter Waizenegger, executive director of SOC Investment Group, in an emailed statement called it a step in the right direction.
At Apple Inc., nearly 54% of shareholders approved on March 4 a similar civil rights audit proposal backed by SOC Investment Group and Trillium Asset Management.
The measure was supported by Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages the 12.34 trillion Norwegian kroner ($1.37 trillion) Government Pension Fund Global, Oslo; the $319.8 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento; $274.7 billion New York City Retirement Systems; and the $251.7 bilion State Board of Administration of Florida, Tallahassee.
"As support for civil rights and racial equity audits swells across the business world, shareowners expect the nation's most powerful corporations and financial institutions to engage in open and honest assessments of how racism impacts their product and services, not only to protect their long-term interests but to identify new growth areas," Mr. Waizenegger said.