MARKETWATCH: Companies declared ‘Black lives matter’ last year, and now they’re being asked to prove it

By Levi Sumagaysay, March 6, 2021

Two-thirds of the largest U.S. companies made statements after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and investor groups are now pressuring banks, social-media giants and others to support shareholder resolutions that seek recurring proof of progress

Shareholder advocacy groups that have long pushed for social change are asking social media companies, banking giants and other corporations that declared their commitment to racial justice in 2020 to back their words with actions this year.

Many U.S. companies stated solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement last year: two-thirds of S&P 500 SPX, +0.60% companies made supportive statements after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a Minnesota police officer last May led to widespread protests, while 36% made financial contributions to racial justice organizations and 14% actually stated “Black Lives Matter,” according to As You Sow, a California-based group that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility.

A lot of those same companies have suggested their shareholders vote against resolutions that sought to improve Black lives in recent years, though. Natasha Lamb, managing director of Massachusetts-based shareholder advocacy group Arjuna Capital, recalled that Inc. AMZN suggested shareholders reject proposals last spring seeking greater disclosure of racial and gender pay gaps. But after Floyd’s death and the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Amazon splashed “Black Lives Matter” on its home page and donated $10 million to the NAACP and other groups.

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