Guns and the Boardroom: Why directors can't sidestep the gun-control debate.

Author:Alexander, Jan
 
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Keith Mestrich, the CEO and president of Amalgamated Bank in New York as well as a board member, is no stranger to the gun safety debate.

Amalgamated has been a mission-driven bank since its founding in the 1920s, and support for gun control is part of its present-day mission. It has a long-held policy ot not lending money to gun or ammunition manufacturers and offers its clients a choice of social impact funds that don't invest in firearms as well as activist funds that support changes at gun manufacturing companies.

The credit policy and trust committees review the bank's lending and investment policies every year to make sure loans and its $45 billion investment portfolio are aligned with its mission. So when Everytown for Gun Safety, the nonprofit started by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, teamed up with representatives from Levi Strauss late this summer and asked CEOs across the country to sign a letter to the U.S. Senate requesting that Congress pass more thorough gun safety laws, Mestrich knew the board would approve.

He was one of 150 chief executives who signed the letter, which Everytown circulated in reaction to the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio in August, and has been vocal about his support for gun control. It's an issue that should hit home for everyone, he says. Amalgamated has held workplace violence training sessions for its employees, and Mestrich's children have active shooter drills in their school.

"Many of my fellow CEOs and board members have realized that we have a voice," he says. "And we should use it to the extent that we have some influence over changes that need to happen."

The CEOs who signed the letter come from a cross section of industries, none directly connected to gun manufacturing. Amalgamated, with its policy of not providing capital to gun makers, and Dick's Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack, who has taken a very public stance against selling assault-style rifles in his stores, are among the few whose only tie to guns is that they've opted out of financing and selling them.

For others--the list includes Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb; Roger Lynch, the CEO of Conde Nast; and Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, to name a few--the closest link to guns is what the letter states: "... we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve."

That seems to sum up the message behind the next wave of corporate...

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