Fifteen years ago, Denver Investments in Denver, Colorado, received a large sum of money from the Minnesota-based Kevin J. Mossier foundation with the strict mandate that it should be invested solely in companies that both honored and adhered to employment equality, in line with what the late Mossier – a visionary gay entrepreneur, most known for founding the highly successful gay travel company RSVP Vacations – would have wanted.
At that time, though, the corporate sector was a totally different place than it is today.
There was no corporate equality index, says John Roberts, partner at Denver Investments. The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce had not even been registered, so abiding by the foundation’s mandate meant “that we had to just call companies up ourselves and ask them if they practiced workplace equality.”
But that bottom-up process allowed Denver Investments to put together a list of companies that practiced true employment equality as it pertained to color, gender and sexual orientation, and based on a set of parameters drawn up over time by the investment firm. Through the years, the universe of companies has grown, so that today, when workplace equality is more or less a given (earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that bars discrimination against LGBT federal employees), Denver Investment’s list morphed into that which didn’t exist 15 years ago: The Workplace Equality Index.
And now, there’s an ETF based on that index, the Workplace Equality Portfolio (EQLT).
For inclusion in the index, companies must support LGBT equality and their Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement must not only prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but should also offer health benefits and other corporate benefits to same-sex partners as they do to spouses of other employees.