Chipotle agrees to independent audit on workforce equity

As a result, the New York State Common Retirement Fund has withdrawn a shareholder proposal seeking more information about the chain's diversity, equity and inclusion practices.
Chipotle sign exterior
The results of the audit will be made public in the company's sustainability report./Photograph: Shutterstock.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund on Wednesday said it has withdrawn a shareholder proposal seeking more information about Chipotle’s diversity, equity and inclusion practices.

The move is a response to Chipotle’s disclosure that the Newport Beach, Calif.-based chain has hired an independent third-party consultant to conduct a Talent Management Equity Audit, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The audit aims to “identify where in the talent management cycle we may need to debias or create more equitable policies, practices and procedures, identify potential blockers and new opportunities to creating and sustaining equity in talent management, and identify key strengths and pockets of risk,” Chipotle said in the filing.

The company said key results and action plans from the audit will be included in the chain’s Sustainability Report.

Since December 2021, Chipotle has also been participating in Management Leadership for Tomorrow’s Black Equity at Work Certification Program, which is designed to measure and accelerate progress toward Black equity, both internally and with business partners.

As of the end of fiscal 2022, Chipotle’s roughly 105,000 workers worldwide were evenly split by gender. About 70% of the U.S.-based employee population was comprised of racial and ethnic minorities, the company said. Of those, most are Latino, making up 38.5% of workers, followed by those who identified as white (29.7%) and Black or African American (20.7%).

A proposal seeking an audit filed last year by the New York State pension fund was supported by 36% of shareholders. Refiling the proposal this year, the fund noted Chipotle’s participation in the Management Leadership for Tomorrow Program, but said, “This program is not the equivalent of a racial equity audit.”

Now that Chipotle has embarked on an audit, however, that fulfills the request of the fund’s proposal, said Matthew Sweeney, a spokesman for the state Comptroller’s office.

Tawanda Starms, Chipotle’s vice president of restaurant support center people experience and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, said in a statement, “As a diverse organization, we are pleased that our shareholders recognize our ongoing commitment to promoting racial equity in the workplace and in the broader society.”

The pension fund, which is one of the largest in the U.S., has used its investments to encourage a broad spectrum of companies to increase their accountability on diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, including companies like JPMorgan Chase & Co., Costco Wholesale Corp., Netflix Inc. and Citigroup Inc.

In a separate move Wednesday, the pension fund said it has filed a shareholder request that Chili’s parent Brinker International disclose more-comprehensive metrics and data on its progress toward DEI goals to shareholders, including recruitment, retention and promotion rates and pay data.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement, “We encourage the fund’s portfolio companies to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion throughout their businesses not just because it is the right thing to do, but because they will be better positioned to prosper in the long term.”

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