Investing in Gay-Friendly Companies: The Credit Suisse Equality Index

Credit Suisse has launched a LGBT Equality Index, making it “the first index to track the equity performance of companies with LGBT-friendly policies,” according to the bank’s announcement. The pursuit of profit is not the only reason for the new index. The bank also wants to raise awareness for the need to recognise sexual minorities in the business world and hence to improve their societal situation. By allowing shareholders – and other stakeholders – to track the positive economic impact of an open-minded and inclusive corporate culture, Credit Suisse promotes one of the most important and convincing argument for Diversity Management.

The index is based on evaluations by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT equality-rights lobbying organisation in the United States. The NGO calculates a Corporate Equality Index (0-100) based on evaluation of corporate policies and practices related to LGBT employees, for instance whether they offer health benefits to same-sex couples or provide transgender-inclusive health insurance. The 201 companies with a rating higher than 80 are included in the Credit Suisse’s LGBT-index and will hence benefit not only from their high ranking but also from additional funds. “The one sad thing though is, that the index only looks at the U.S. ranking of HRC,” Diversity expert Michael Stuber comments. He had carried out a feasibility study on (comprehensive) D&I benchmarking for the European Commission and initiated the first LGBT benchmarking in Europe. “The index would have been an opportunity to expand the LGBT index to the main European markets,” he adds. In the UK, Stonewall also publishes a selective ranking list.

Credit Suisse’s index, however, underscores the pivotal role of the financial industry in LGBT issues. 32 financial institutes and the large Swiss banks in particular received top ratings from HRC. Equality programmes and campaigns were started far earlier in the financial sector than in other industries. In 2008, UBS and Credit Suisse had developed gay banking offers to meet special requirements and legal issues of homosexual clients, e.g. gay or lesbian couples. Similar to a number of earlier Diversity indices that were created to offer investment funds, smart investors can now deliberately invest in LGBT-friendly shares. Over the past year, the index has climbed mighty 22%.