Advocating for Our Collective Future
I was one of several Natural Investments advisers to travel to Washington, D.C., in May to participate in a day of advocacy organized by USSIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.
You may be wondering why a group of financial advisors who are on a mission to transform the world into a more equitable place would venture into the political arena. It’s a good question, and it’s one with an important answer. Right now, strategies for using investing as a tool for social change are under attack. The Security and Exchange Commission is trying to scare pension funds away from socially responsible investments by rolling back rules put in place during the Obama era. In Congress, Republicans are trying to strip away our right to engage in shareholder advocacy—taking away one of our best tools for advancing systemic change in corporations. Over at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, they are letting the foxes guard the henhouse, to the detriment of all consumers.
It’s in this context that Natural Investments decided to take a stand. We decided to travel as a group to ask our representatives and senators for better laws and to demand they stop rolling back the progress that has been made over the last decade in our industry.
The organizer of this lobbying day was USSIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing. They brought together investment groups like Natural Investments, mutual fund managers, and larger institutional investors. All told, our lobbying contingent was more than 100 people strong. The goal of this effort was to make sure that our members of Congress knew about our industry and how passionate our clients (like you!) are about socially responsible investing and our ability to engage in shareholder activism. We wanted to be sure that our Representatives were hearing from people like us – not just huge wall street firms.
During our time we focused on three goals:
• Fully fund the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): We believe regulators must have the tools and resources to go after people who are out to defraud US consumers.
• Protect our ability to file shareholder resolutions: A House bill proposes to impose a 1% ownership threshold for filing shareholder resolutions. This would mean that only billionaires would be eligible to file shareholder resolutions. We believe this is not only unethical but something that would hurt companies.
• Advance awareness and protection of socially responsible and impact investing: The current administration has tried to scare some larger pension funds from engaging in impact and socially responsible investing. We want to make sure the members of Congress know we’ve been doing this work for decades, and that there is real appetite for it. We believe that individuals should have control over their own money and should be allowed to invest it according to their values.
After undergoing training in the morning and going over the specifics of the bills, our team at Natural Investments met with dozens of staffers in our representatives’ offices. As you can imagine, some of them were more receptive to our cause then others, but all of them graciously welcomed us into their office and heard our pitch.
This obviously won’t be the end of our actions. Many of us are following up with those staffers and may hold additional meetings in our home town. What we do know is that we will not be silent while our industry and our mission are under attack from this administration. We will defend our clients’ right to invest in social change, influence the behavior of companies, and help create the world we dream of. And we will fight for that right, no matter who is in charge in Washington, D.C.