2020: A Year of Transformation
Crisis and opportunity have an interesting partnership. They don’t always go together, but when they do, they can catalyze powerful change in individuals, countries, and human civilization. Many forces converged in 2020 to create such a dynamic—a global pandemic, heightened attention to racism, extreme weather events and accompanying natural disasters, the disruption of democratic norms by a white supremacist authoritarian president, the proliferation of misinformation and conspiracy theories, and, finally, a historic election.
The year 2020 demanded resilience, and while we surely felt tested on many levels and tried to hold onto our center, many of us found ourselves reflecting on the meaning of life and then acting to change our own lives and work harder to build a just, equitable, and sustainable society. More people voted in 2020 than ever before. Enormous amounts of money flowed from corporations, foundations, and investors to Black communities, organizations, and entrepreneurs. Two national sports teams finally stopped using cultural symbols and names offensive to Native Americans. Last and perhaps most important for our approach to systemic transformation: more assets flooded into socially responsible investments than in any previous year in history.
While Natural Investments has long channeled capital to communities and people of color, we felt called to broaden and deepen our commitment to racial justice and equity—internally as a firm and externally via our clients’ investments. We took active steps to live up to our commitment across a range of areas.
- We held a Black Economic Liberation webinar in Spring 2020 with dozens of our clients to look at ways to invest further in Black communities and enterprises, and by the year’s end we counted nearly $50 million in racial justice investments made by our clients. Some of them are profiled in this report.
- Our advisors took the Whiteness at Work webinar series, which looks at various ways that racism shows up in the workplace and details how to address it. We subsequently developed our own company statement of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
- We decided that since 86 percent of our firm is comprised of white advisors, we will only add people of color to expand our advisor roster. We also encouraged our advisors to hire people of color to their own staffs. Overall Natural Investments added three people of color to staff in 2020, and another as a consultant. We also conducted an internal pay equity audit and raised the rates of our lowest-paid consultants considerably.
- We more than doubled our charitable giving to racial equity organizations, which are listed on our Charitable Contributions page. We deposited a significant portion of our company reserves at Hope Credit Union, which primarily serves communities of color in the South.
- We found new ways to financially support our own advisors of color, while also committing to offer stipends to new advisors of color as they come on board to help jump start their practices.
- Our racial equity work continues in 2021: We have engaged a consulting firm, Every Level Leadership, to conduct racial equity trainings and an audit to help us further embrace policies and practices of racial justice, equity, and inclusion.
While we have long been committed to racial issues and equity-focused investments, 2020 pushed us to accelerate and intensify our anti-racist action. The struggle for justice and equality is ongoing and requires that we step up more to help shape a just and equitable shared future for all. We deeply appreciate our clients, who share these values and are allocating their investments in alignment with this mission.
Photo Credit: First-time homeowner Melbatine Hunter pictured by Hope Credit Union
Natural Investments has deposited a significant portion of our company reserves at Hope Credit Union.