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This is an audio transcript of the FT News Briefing podcast episode: Is corporate America becoming more inclusive?

Joanna S Kao
Good morning from the Financial Times. Today is Monday, February 21st, and this is your FT News Briefing.

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The Olympics wrapped up in Beijing yesterday, capping two weeks of competition and controversy. And banks pledged to fund a UN-backed ETF in the run up to the Glasgow climate summit, but the money never arrived and the fund is close to failure.

Kristen Talman
These banks pledged massive funding to this ETF. They put their name on this ETF to seed it for it to launch, and then the funding has yet to be met.

Joanna S Kao
Then companies have spent the last few years promising to address racial equity, we hear if they’ve delivered. I’m Joanna Kao, in for Marc Filippino, and here’s the news you need to start your day.

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The Beijing Winter Olympics drew to a close on Sunday. China had pledged to deliver a simple, safe and splendid games. Its closed-loop system was largely successful at containing the spread of Covid-19, with close to zero cases in the final days of the Olympics. But the event did not escape controversy. The US led a diplomatic boycott over China’s human rights record. And the International Olympic Committee was criticised for how it handled a doping scandal. Norway topped the Games with 16 gold medals. China had its best Winter Olympics result with nine golds. Italy will host the next Winter Olympics in 2026.

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A United Nations-backed ETF is close to collapse roughly three months after it launched. The MSCI Global Climate Select ETF debuted in November during the Glasgow climate summit, or COP26. The fund excludes fossil fuel companies and boosts holdings of those with lower carbon emissions. Banks like Citigroup and Santander pledged millions to help seed the new fund, but that money never arrived. The fund holds less than $2mn and Kristen Talman, a reporter for the FT’s Moral Money, says those investors are now turning to the press for support.

Kristen Talman
They said, we signed on for this because we were told by the UN that these banks would come in with their funding, and they haven’t. So now we’re turning towards, you know, journalists and the media.

Joanna S Kao
The banks say they are waiting to invest until the fund grows. But the fund’s manager, Impact Shares, says that the ETF is likely to be wound down as soon as the end of next month without further investment. Kristen says the lesson of this story is to be sceptical when banks make these kinds of pledges.

Kristen Talman
When you read that banks are pledging this amount, kind of put that in your back pocket and then follow up on it four or five months later and maybe ask that question, is that funding been met? Has that study been, you know, finished? What’s happening with that? Especially when pledges are made around huge hyped events like COP26?

Joanna S Kao
Kristen Talman is a reporter with the FT’s Moral Money.

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Corporate America vowed to spend huge sums of money to address systemic racism following the death of George Floyd in 2020. Two years later, little progress has been made. A report from consultants Creative Investment Research found that about 270 US corporations pledged $67bn towards racial equity in the last two years, but less than one per cent has actually been disbursed by the start of this year. Taylor Nicole Rogers is the FT’s US labour and equality correspondent. She recently appeared on the latest episode of our fellow FT podcast, Working It, to talk about diversity in corporate America today. She tells Working It host, Isabel Berwick, that diversity programmes at some companies haven’t had much impact.

Taylor Nicole Rogers
It tends to be, we’re going to have a training, we’re going to have a listening session. We’re going to celebrate Black History Month and we’re going to celebrate Latino Heritage Month. And those things are not bad in and of itself, but they don’t actually change the things that people care about, which tends to be pay transparency and pay equity and culture.

Joanna S Kao
And when it comes to pay transparency?

Taylor Nicole Rogers
So, I’ve spoken with companies who have said, oh, well we have a really large black-white pay gap, but that’s because we’ve only been intentionally hiring black people for two years. So they’re all at the entry level, and that’s why the pay gap is so wide. Well, I don’t think that’s acceptable. If the pay gap is so wide because you only have black people at the entry level, maybe you need to hire black people at the senior level. And you could also say, well the pay gap is so wide because we just lost our CDO, our chief diversity officer, who was the highest paid black person at the company, and that really opened up the gap. Once again, I would say that’s not good enough, and I think we’re in that spot now where employers have been doing these pay equity reports more commonly for a year or two. And so now we really have to investigate why they’re reporting on things that they’re reporting.

Joanna S Kao
Taylor says one way companies can keep their employees of colour is to establish a good work culture.

Taylor Nicole Rogers
If you have a good culture, then people don’t have to code switch. And code switching is just when you take who you are and you suppress parts of that when you go into the workplace, especially if you aren’t the typical person in the workplace. So you might change the way you dress, the way you style your hair, your accent when you speak, that way you blend in more with other people in the office. So I think from what I’ve heard from people of colour, this has always been a big reason to switch jobs. The culture thing has always been a big reason that people switch jobs. But because of the environment we’re in now, people are even more willing to switch jobs because recruiters are coming to them saying, we want you because you have a different experience, we’re working really hard to fix our culture. And they’re using that as a recruiting tool, which works really well on someone who feels like they are being actively excluded in their workplace.

Joanna S Kao
Taylor Nicole Rogers is the FT’s US labour and equality correspondent. This conversation is from the latest episode of Working It. To hear more, follow Working It wherever you get your podcasts.

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And before we go, if you’re looking for a British ski or snowboard instructor in the Alps this year, you might be out of luck. British instructors are finding themselves frozen out of Europe because of Brexit trade negotiations. A late 2020 agreement between Britain and Brussels left out mutual recognition of the instructor’s professional qualifications. Employers in Italy, France and Austria now need to jump through extra hoops to hire British citizens.

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You can read more on all of these stories at FT.com. This has been your daily FT News Briefing. Make sure you check back tomorrow for the latest business news.

This transcript has been automatically generated. If by any chance there is an error please send the details for a correction to: typo@ft.com. We will do our best to make the amendment as soon as possible.

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