Company Engagement: Amazon and Human Rights Standards

Natural Investments has joined with other investors representing $6.7 Trillion in assets under management to request that Amazon, Inc. respect workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. We believe that worker representation plays an important role in companies.

In light of the reported anti-union practices at Amazon’s Bessemer facility in Alabama, we have joined this engagement to call upon the company to take concrete steps to implement its commitments to well-established human rights standards. We call on Amazon to immediately take steps to ensure the workers in Bessemer, Alabama are free to exercise their rights without interference. We also seek to kickstart dialogue on the company’s policies and approach to respecting labor rights in Amazon’s global operations and supply chain.

 Photo credit: Getty Images

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Rest in Peace Jack Brill

Jack Brill, a pioneer of the socially responsible investment (SRI) industry and co-founder of Natural Investments, passed away on January 21, 2021 at age 89. As one of the earliest SRI advisors in the ‘80s, Jack was a passionate advocate and known for his heartfulness and thought leadership. No one can attest to this better than his son and co-founder Hal Brill, who described their eventual realization of the power of socially responsible investing in Bringing Consciousness to Capitalism.

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A Promise of Socially Responsible Investing – Realized

Investment advisors who have practiced socially responsible investing (SRI) going back decades as some on our team at Natural Investments have, remember well the doubters’ refrains of our means for social and environmental change: using investment capital does not advance social progress and environmental preservation.  There is now evidence to refute them.

One way socially responsible investors create impact is by identifying which companies are exhibiting objectionable practices that undermine social progress or create environmental harm, and will  decide to withhold financial backing from such companies.  This is known as “avoidance” investing, one of several SRI leverage methods.

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Transforming Systemic Inequity

2020 will go down in history as a year of profound disruption. One crisis after another exposed the mortal consequences of racial inequities––beginning with a pandemic in which people of color were far more likely to die than white Americans and a series of brutal police killings of unarmed Black civilians. These painful events spurred a national uprising, led by the Movement for Black Lives and supported by thousands of allied groups across the country, that has since been characterized by scholars as the largest mass movement in US history.

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SRI in Focus: The Vibrant Growth of Sustainable Investing

The Biennial Report on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends, which measures the state of the industry at the end of 2019, shows that sustainable, socially responsible, and impact investing (SRI) is on its way to becoming the new normal. Since the previous report two years ago, the amount of assets under professional management in the US that integrates some form of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria jumped 43% to over $17 trillion. Not only is this the largest two-year increase in 25 years of reporting, but the total suggests that one of every three dollars of professionally managed investments is invested using SRI criteria.

There are now about 400 money managers practicing SRI and more than 500 institutional investors (such as pension plans, government treasuries, and university and foundation endowments) applying various ESG criteria as a matter of investment policy. More than 1200 community development financial institutions provide capital to people and communities in need of basic banking services, loans, and access to credit.

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ESG: A Paradigm for Resilience

To assert that the global COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every part of our daily lives in 2020 would be an understatement. As the one-year anniversary of the virus’s outbreak approaches, it is becoming clear that some adaptations and trends necessitated by the pandemic are likely to have lasting impacts. For instance, the rise in flexible and home-based working arrangements has forced the commercial real estate market to pivot. And the expansion of voting methods, which resulted in a record turnout in the 2020 US presidential election, has fundamentally changed electoral politics.

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Market Report – Winter 2021

The three major events of the year—the coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest, and a contentious presidential election— combined to present an environment that we could scarcely have imagined twelve months ago. There has been plenty of fallout from these events, including the heartbreak over lives lost, economic hardship, a painful confrontation with systemic racism, and the thorough disruption of communities and local economies.

As of this writing, more than 78 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide, and more than 1.7 million deaths have been attributed to the pandemic—numbers that continue to rage out of control. These are losses that overwhelm the mind. The enduring legacy of the pandemic will be the massive void left by those who have died.

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In the News – Winter 2021

1: SUSTAINABLE INVESTING ASSETS REACH $17. 1 TRILLION (US SIF Foundation)
Total US-domiciled assets under management using sustainable investing strategies grew
from $12.0 trillion at the start of 2018 to $17.1 trillion at the start of 2020––an increase of 42 percent––according to a biennial “Trends Report” by the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF). The top three issues for money managers and their institutional investor clients: climate
change/carbon emissions, sustainable natural resources/agriculture, and board governance.

2: THE BIDEN ERA COULD BE A BOON TO SUSTAINABLE INVESTING (Barron’s)
Biden has promised ambitious plans for combating climate change and other environmental prerogatives. Experts outline their top seven priorities to strengthen the industry’s ability to move capital into sustainable and socially responsible investments.

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STATEMENT ON JUSTICE, EQUITY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION

Natural Investments is making a long-term commitment to the principles of Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (JEDI).

Justice: We actively seek to dismantle supremacy in all its forms, remove barriers to justice, and use our institutional privilege to address longstanding inequities. We work collaboratively to uphold human dignity and foster systemic change both within our firm and in society.

Equity: While we believe that people of all genders, races, and other identities can succeed, build wealth, and become leaders in our industry, not everyone comes to us with the same background. We seek to proactively level the playing field through sharing power, resources, and opportunities, and embracing our diverse stories and perspectives.

Diversity: We value our differences because collectively, they make us better. Our goal is to achieve meaningful diversity on our team across race, gender, class, and other factors. At the firm level, Natural Investments is currently only adding people of color as new advisors, and we encourage all our advisors to prioritize this in their hiring as well.

Inclusion: We accept people for who they are, without creating pressure to conform or assimilate into the norms of a dominant culture. We encourage everyone to express themselves authentically and respectfully. We commit to examining the impact of our words and actions, and to deepening our awareness of patterns of harm in order to facilitate accountability, understanding, behavioral change, and healing. We engage in training and learning opportunities that build our capacity to embody a welcoming, appreciative, celebratory, and culturally rich environment for all.

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