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Corporate board diversity census showed Black men lost ground | Business and Economy News



Many United States companies have rushed to appoint Black members to their boards of directors since racial justice protests swept the country last year.

But in the two preceding years, progress on increasing racial diversity on boards stagnated, a new study revealed on Tuesday. Black men even lost ground.

The Board Diversity Census, conducted by the Alliance for Board Diversity and the consulting firm Deloitte, points to the steep deficit companies face when it comes to fulfilling pledges to diversity in their ranks. An overwhelming 82.5 percent of directors among Fortune 500 company boards are white, according to the census.

The census suggests that, until the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd galvanised a national reckoning on systemic racism, attention to racial diversity took something of a back seat to gender equality in boardrooms.

Between July 2020 and May 2021, some 32 percent of newly appointed board members in the S&P 500 were Black, according to an analysis by ISS Corporate Solutions, which advises companies on improving shareholder value and reducing risk. That was a leap compared to 11 percent during the previous year.

In a telling finding, the number of Black men on Fortune 500 boards fell by 1.5 percent between 2018 and June 2020, even as the representation of Black women rose by 18 percent [File: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports]

But the time before then shows a sudden shift in priorities. The census found that the number of women serving on Fortune 500 boards rose four percentage points to 26.5 percent between 2018 and June of 2020 — a faster pace of progress than the 2 percent increase over the preceding two years.

In contrast, the number of racial minorities on Fortune 500 boards rose by just above a percentage point. That was a slower pace than the 2 percent increase during the previous two years. In a telling finding, the number of Black men on Fortune 500 boards fell by 1.5 percent between 2018 and June 2020, even as the representation of Black women rose by 18 percent.

Attention to gender equality did bolster the ranks of minority women on Fortune 500 boards, though their numbers remain small at 6 percent, according to the census. The number of minority men remained virtually unchanged at just under 12 percent.

With racial minorities holding so few seats to begin with, the findings underscore the need to pick up the pace of change, said Linda Akutagawa, chair for the Alliance for Board Diversity.

Asian, Hispanic and Black women directors made the biggest percentage increases since 2018. But the raw number of seats each of those groups gained paled in comparison to the 209 seats gained by white women, according to the study. White women held three new seats for every new seat occupied by a woman from a racial minority.

Asian, Hispanic and Black women directors made the biggest percentage increases since 2018. But the raw number of seats each of those groups gained paled in comparison to the 209 seats gained by white women, according to the census [File: Maya Alleruzzo/AP]

The Board Diversity Census based its findings on a two-year review of public filings through June 30, 2020. During that period, companies responded to pressure to appoint more women to their boards. California passed a law in 2017 requiring publicly traded firms headquartered in the state to have at least two or three women directors by 2021, depending on the size of their boards.

Over the past year, more pressure has arisen for boards to focus on racial diversity. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new law last year giving companies until the end of 2021 to have at least one board member from an underrepresented ethnic community, or who identifies as LGBT. In December, Nasdaq filed a proposal with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to adopt new listing rules requiring companies to publicly disclose their board diversity statistics.

More than a dozen companies, including Zillow and M.M.LaFleur, signed a pledge in September to add at least one Black director to their boards within a year.

Carey Oven, national managing partner of Deloitte’s Center for Board Effectiveness, said that kind of rapid shift shows that progress on diversity is a matter of corporate will, rather than a lack of qualified minority candidates.

“It’s really a choice for boards to take steps to become more diverse,” Oven said.

In April, 140 racial justice leaders published a letter in the Financial Times demanding that the country’s largest asset managers oppose all-white boards at this year’s shareholder meetings. But the letter also called for them to oppose boards “with arguably token representation by a single person of color”.

“Boards draw a circle around everyone who is not a white male and call themselves diverse,” said Eli Kasargod-Staub, executive director of Majority Action, a non-profit group that sponsored the letter. “That way of framing it often obscures that fact that they only have one person of colour on their boards.”

In December, Majority Action, along with the Service Employees International Union, released a report showing that 56 of the S&P 500 companies had all-white boards as of November 2020. The asset manager BlackRock voted to approve the entire board at 52 of those companies at their 2020 shareholder meetings, according to the report, which cited research from ISS Analytics and public filings. Vanguard voted to support the entire board at 51 of the companies.

Some fund giants have acknowledged they have been slower to push boardrooms to appoint more people of colour, compared to their advocacy to add more women. But many say the momentum is turning.

BlackRock said this year that it’s raising its expectations for ethnic and gender diversity on corporate boards, and it voted against more than 130 boards in the early part of 2021 due to a lack of it. But it does not have a bright-line rule for how many people of colour should be on a board, similar to how it expects US companies to have at least two women on their boards.

BlackRock said this year that it’s raising its expectations for ethnic and gender diversity on corporate boards, and it voted against more than 130 boards in the early part of 2021 due to a lack of it [File: Lucas Jackson/Reuters]

Vanguard revised its proxy voting guidelines to warn that it will vote against some board nominees at companies where lack of diversity is a concern. But a Vanguard spokeswoman said the investing giant believes “there is no one-size-fits-all mandate for board diversity” and will evaluate each board individually.

State Street Global Advisors, the company behind the “Fearless Girl” statue that stared down the iconic charging bull statue near Wall Street, said it will start voting against the chair of the board nominating committee at S&P 500 companies next year if it doesn’t have at least one underrepresented minority. This year, it began voting against nominating committee chairs of companies that fail to disclose the racial and ethnic composition of their boards.

“We did see that progress was not being made quickly enough,” said Benjamin Colton, State Street’s global co-head of asset stewardship. “It was difficult for us to even gauge progress because we did not have that disclosure available.”

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Agreement in principle reached over Suez Canal ship | Business and Economy News




Ever Given container ship has been anchored since it was dislodged on March 29 after blocking the crucial waterway.

A representative for the owners and insurers of a giant cargo ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March said on Wednesday an agreement in principle was reached in a compensation dispute with the canal authority.

Work was under way to finalise a signed settlement agreement as soon as possible and arrangements for the release of the Ever Given vessel would be made after formalities had been dealt with, Faz Peermohamed of Stann Marine said in a statement.

The Ever Given container ship has been anchored in a lake between two stretches of the canal since it was dislodged on March 29. It had been grounded across the canal for six days, blocking hundreds of ships and disrupting global trade.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) demanded $916m in compensation to cover salvage efforts, reputational damage and lost revenue before publicly lowering the request to $550m.

The Ever Given’s Japanese owners, Shoei Kisen, and its insurers have disputed the claim and the ship’s detention under an Egyptian court order.

SCA lawyer Khaled Abu Bakr on Sunday told a court hearing over the ship’s detention that the vessel’s owners had presented a new compensation offer and negotiations were continuing.

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Bahrain says it invited Qatar twice for bilateral talks | GCC News




Bahrain foreign ministry says invitations sent ‘in an attempt to move forward in strengthening the process of joint Gulf cooperation’.

Bahrain’s foreign ministry said it has sent two invitations to Qatar asking for its neighbouring Gulf state to send a delegation for bilateral talks in order to “settle outstanding issues”.

Quoting the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, the foreign ministry on Tuesday “affirmed that the Kingdom of Bahrain hopes that the State of Qatar will take into account in its foreign policy the unity of the Gulf”.

According to the press release, Bahrain sent the invitations “in an attempt to move forward in strengthening the process of joint Gulf cooperation”.

“The Minister further highlighted that unity among the member states of the GCC is a popular demand for all its people, which was stipulated in the Al-Ula summit statement.”

In February, Bahrain said it had sent an initial invitation to Qatar the previous month but there had been no response.

According to a report by Doha News, Qatar delayed its response because the invite was carried through a “media announcement”, GCC Secretary-General Nayef Falah Mubarak al-Hajraf had told Bahraini foreign minister al-Zayani.


Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, broke off diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017 over claims it was too close to Iran and backed hardline groups, allegations Qatar has always firmly denied.

But earlier this year, the blockading countries agreed to restore ties in a summit hosted by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the desert city of al-Ula, following a flurry of diplomatic activity by the administration of former US President Donald Trump.

Qatar, which is hosting the football World Cup next year, emerged from the regional spat largely unscathed and resolute in the face of the assault.

It rejected the quartet’s demands, which included that it shut down the Al Jazeera Media Network and expel a small contingency of Turkish troops from its territory.

Since then, Riyadh and Cairo have acted to rebuild ties with Doha and all but Bahrain have restored trade and travel links with Doha.

A month prior to the signing of the al-Ula declaration, Qatar reported airspace violations by four Bahraini fighter jets to the United Nations Security Council and the secretary-general of the United Nations.

The letter expressed Qatar’s strong condemnation of actions which it perceived as a violation of its sovereignty and regional security, adding that these violations were blatantly inconsistent with Bahrain’s obligations under international law.

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Climate colonialism and the EU’s Green Deal | Climate Change




Since the beginning of the year, the Amazon Rainforest, our largest tropical forest full of ecosystems essential to global climate regulation networks, has had 430,000 acres (174,000 hectares) cleared and burned to supply the logging industry and clear land for livestock breeding. Between August 2019 and July 2020, another 2.7 million acres (1.1 million hectares) were destroyed. Much of the wood and meat produced in Brazil from this deforestation ends up in Global North markets.

In Southeast Asia, deforestation linked to the palm oil industry also continues. Between 2018 and 2020, almost 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) of rainforest were cleared in just three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, leading to Indigenous communities losing their land. The demand for palm oil from top food brands in the Global North remains high, despite their commitments to reduce use.

Meanwhile, the push for greener sources of energy, particularly in the Global North, is driving the demand for metals like nickel, cobalt and lithium. Labourers in mining communities working to extract these metals face dangerous and degrading working conditions.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the use of child labour in cobalt mines is widespread, putting the lives of children at risk, damaging their health and depriving them of education. In Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, lithium mining uses large quantities of water, accelerating desertification and polluting underground waters and rivers, putting the health of local communities at risk.

According to data gathered by London-based NGO Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, there have been 304 complaints of human rights violations by 115 companies mining these minerals.

Although the end of colonialism was declared decades ago, its last effects in the form of these extractive industries are clear. The system of Indigenous land takeovers, resource extraction, labour exploitation and wealth transfer set up by European colonialists continues to operate and dispossess people in the Global South.

It is against the backdrop of this neo-colonial reality that the European Union announced its Green Deal at the end of 2019.

Underpinned by an apolitical narrative that humans have already changed the Earth’s climate and degraded the majority of its ecosystems, so action needs to be taken, the Green Deal completely ignores the fact that the Global North was the main driver of climate change and environmental degradation across the world.

European governments and corporations not only damaged and destroyed the environment on the continent and exploited local marginalised communities, but have been engaged in the same exact behaviour and worse, on all other continents.

The natural world in Africa, Asia and Latin America has been destroyed through the capitalist economic systems deployed by the Global North which normalised, expanded and strengthened hyper-extraction through overproduction and over-consumption.

The European Green Deal does not outline how it will reconcile and repair the losses and damages EU countries have caused to ecosystems and communities outside of Europe. Nor does it acknowledge how these damages force people in the Global South to migrate to Europe’s shores, where they experience pushbacks, must less offer a solution.

The European Green Deal also ignores the environmental impact of Europe’s drive for renewable energy and electric mobility on other parts of the world, where resources for this economic shift will have to be extracted. It also does not pay attention to how climate change and environmental degradation have disproportionately affected its own marginalised communities and the poor and destitute in the Global South.

In other words, in the pursuit of making the EU the first climate-neutral region in the world by 2050, Brussels is falling back on its old ways and deploying what we call climate colonialism.

The EU’s apolitical narrative on climate change – ignoring the impact of colonialism and capitalism and heavily influenced by the very corporations who profit from them – could result in climate action that is not only non-impactful but, worse, could be unsustainable and damaging for marginalised communities on the continent as well as the Global South.

It relies on tech solutions and silver-bullet ideas, promising to lead a “green, sustainable” economy with electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines and other exciting renewable innovations.

But the question is, who will this be sustainable for?

In order not to fall into climate colonialism, the European Green Deal needs a clear plan to eradicate harmful extractive models, recognise its historical responsibility in the climate crisis, and provide accountability for the damage EU companies cause in the Global South.

Working within the same system that causes injustice will only reproduce injustice. We at Equinox have put forward a number of important recommendations that could help steer the Green Deal away from its capitalistic, colonial foundation and towards new holistic, intersectional approaches that put social and racial justice at its core.

Among these recommendations are a clear commitment to racial justice, integrated policies linking the EU’s Anti-Racist Action Plan to the Green Deal, institutional reform, and a new relationship with civil society.

Only by acknowledging that it is perpetuating colonial capitalism, and committing to ending this approach, can the EU’s Green Deal be truly effective in addressing climate change. For far too long, European governments and companies have wreaked havoc across the world. It is time for justice, accountability and a complete overhaul of economic systems. Our collective survival depends on it.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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