BlackRock plans to undergo an external review of how its diversity, equity and inclusion policies impact stakeholders, the firm said in an employee memo sent April 1.
Saying it must lead by example, the memo from Global Head of Human Resources Manish Mehta and Global Head of DEI Michelle Gadsden-Williams referenced the firm's enhanced diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. The goal, it said, "is for BlackRock to be a leader in integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into every aspect of our business — ranging from our own people and culture, to how we serve our clients, to how we use our voice in broader society."
BlackRock has embedded accountability into its business and manager assessments, and is publishing quarterly progress reports on its DEI strategy, the executives said. Results from the external review, to be shared with all stakeholders, "will provide useful feedback in assessing our progress and areas for future focus," it said.
Shareholders are increasingly asking firms to consider such racial-equity audits. The request for BlackRock to do one came from SEIU, which withdrew its resolution after the firm agreed to undergo the racial-equity audit.
In November, SEIU's Capital Stewardship Program and CtW Investment Group launched a joint initiative to demand racial equity audits at the six largest U.S. financial institutions. CtW Investment Group and Morgan Stanley recently reached an agreement for the bank to conduct an internal diversity review, and to meet shareholders on next steps before its 2022 annual meeting.
The proposed resolution urged BlackRock to assess its behavior through a racial equity lens to see how it contributes to systemic racism, including where its stated values are misaligned with the impact of its actions. The resolution referenced a 2020 proxy voting report finding that BlackRock opposed most shareholder proposals for companies to address racial justice issues and "did not use its clout as a significant owner to advance racial justice."