In his last letter to boards as CEO of State Street Global Advisors, Cyrus Taraporevala (who has announced his planned retirement this year) writes that we are at a “moment of significant transition,” facing many challenges, including a pandemic, climate change and gender, racial and ethnic inequities, that have led to economic disruption and even political instability. How should companies address these challenges? SSGA expects its portfolio companies to manage “these threats and opportunities by transitioning their strategies and operations—enhancing efforts to decarbonize and embracing new ways of recruiting and retaining talent—as the world moves toward a low-carbon and more diverse and inclusive future.” Accordingly, SSGA’s “main focus in 2022 will be to support the acceleration of the systemic transformations underway in climate change and the diversity of boards and workforces.”
At the beginning of Black history month, in a class action complaint against the NFL and others replete with heart-breaking allegations of racism, former Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins, Brian Flores, charged that, among many other things, he and other members of the proposed class have been denied positions as head coaches and general managers as a result of racial discrimination. Defendants that have responded publicly have reportedly denied the allegations and said that the claims are without merit. Particularly notable from a governance and DEI perspective are allegations regarding the disingenuous application of the vaunted “Rooney Rule”—which originated in the NFL back in 2002 in an effort to address the dearth of Black head coaches—but has since become almost de rigueur in governance circles as one effective approach to increasing diversity in a wide variety of contexts, including boards of directors. However well-intentioned originally, the complaint alleges, “the Rooney Rule is not working.” Flores claims that, to fulfill the admonitions of the Rooney Rule, NFL teams “discriminatorily subjected” him and other Black candidates “to sham and illegitimate interviews due in whole or part to their race and/or color.” While this claim is far from the most incendiary in the complaint, if shown to be accurate, it would certainly seriously damage the reputation of the defendants involved. Can an approach that has allegedly failed to work in its original setting still be made to work effectively in other contexts?
Being a “good corporate citizen”: how can ESG be integrated with corporate compliance and board oversight functions?
In light of accelerating concerns about climate change and sustainability, economic inequality, worker safety and racial inequity, companies have faced increasing calls to answer to a variety of stakeholders—stakeholders other than shareholders. These concerns are often collected under the heading of environmental, social and governance issues, sometimes adding in “employees” as a separate “E” category. How should companies that aim to be good corporate citizens identify relevant components of EESG? How does EESG align with existing Caremark compliance efforts? How should we think about incorporating EESG oversight into the board’s organizational structure? Is this another job for the already burdened audit committee? This article, Caremark and ESG, Perfect Together: A Practical Approach to Implementing an Integrated, Efficient, and Effective Caremark and EESG Strategy, co-authored by former Delaware Chief Justice Leo Strine, observes that “boards and management teams are struggling to situate EESG within their existing reporting and committee framework and figure out how to meet the demand for greater accountability to society while not falling short in other areas.” Strine and his co-authors offer a framework for doing just that.