FTSE 100 companies are falling short on ESG standards as a report found that there are no black chairs, chief executives or chief financial officers across the index.
It is the first time it happens in six years and it comes at a time of heightened awareness following the recent focus on the Black Lives Matter movement.
The numbers of most other minority ethnic groups in these top positions have increased by a small amount since 2014, but the number of black leaders at FTSE 100 companies has stalled and then dropped to zero.
As a result, only ten of 297 leaders in the top three roles have ethnic minority backgrounds, said staffing firm Green Park.
Only 1% of executive directors and non-executive directors were black, which compared unfavourably with other ethnic minorities.
The prospects for future increases in black representation at the highest levels of British business also look slim, researchers said, with numbers in the leadership pipeline decreasing over the past year from 1.4% to 0.9%.
This drop in the pipeline is reflected across ethnic minority groups more widely, with ethnic minority representation falling over the past year from 10.7% to 9%.
In October, Legal & General Group PLC (LON:LGEN) issued an ultimatum to the over 30 big caps with all-white boards unless they appoint a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) director by January 2022.
The life insurer, which owns 2-3% of almost all the largest stocks in the UK, warned it will vote against the re-election of the nomination committee chairmen if the firms do not comply.
However, its chair, chief executive and chief financial officer are white men.
Diversity pays, at least in term of gender: according to an analysis by broker Liberum, London-listed companies with a more gender-diverse board of directors had higher operating margins, lower share price volatility and higher share price returns, outperforming their peers by 3.4%.
“We know there is no shortage of qualified candidates to fill these roles if companies are willing to look. Yet the snowy peaks of British business remain stubbornly white,” said Trevor Phillips, Chair of Green Park.
“We cannot go back to business as usual. It is time that shareholders, consumers and employees start questioning whether Black Lives Matter is just rhetoric rather than reality.”