The United Nations (UN) Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) has released a paper urging investors to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into investment and ownership decisions.
It has also called on investment firms to “lead by example” and address DEI within their own organisations.
In the paper, titled Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Key Action Areas for Investors, the UN PRI stated that progress on gender diversity “has been a good starting point” but said investors must go beyond gender to address issues such as inclusion and equity.
It highlighted an increasing number of regulatory frameworks related to DEI and human rights, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
According to the PRI, mentions of DEI in its signatories’ proxy voting policies have increased, from 6% in 2017 to 21% in 2020, while mentions of DEI within the PRI’s Reporting Framework have grown “steadily” between 2014 and 2019.
However, the UN PRI stated in the paper that the number of investors mentioning or working on DEI in their proxy voting polices is “still low”, and that this does not match the increasing public commitment from investors to work on these issues.
The UN PRI also urged firms to consider DEI within investment teams, on the basis it “can strengthen decision-making".
“A diverse and inclusive culture within the investment team is also crucial to ensure it is working to represent and understand the end beneficiaries,” it stated in the paper.
The organisation added: “There is also a growing body of research to suggest that diverse teams can strengthen performance on other ESG issues.”
The UN PRI’s paper is intended for use by global asset owners, investment managers and service providers to help them develop their approach to DEI.
In January this year, investment manager Robeco identified DEI as one of its engagement themes in 2022, alongside net zero emissions, natural resource management, and biodiversity.
An Ernst & Young 2021 Global Alternative Fund Survey published in November 2021, concluded that the growing importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) and DEI considerations will transform the funds industry for years to come.
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