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.
If you’re working with a financial planner, chances are you’re the kind of person who has also prepared for the possibility of an earthquake, hurricane, or wildfires. But have you prepared for potential civil unrest around the election? “What? No, that could never happen here!” you might be thinking. Well, it’s not something I’d ever worried about before either, but hear me out.
Most of us have experienced important disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of publication, more than 128,000 Americans have died from the illness, leaving entire communities in mourning. Shut-downs and quarantine orders have devastated the economies of entire cities. Nearly everyone—even the most privileged—have had to make major changes to their daily lives.
With the pandemic still in full force, a national response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans who lost their lives to institutionalized racial violence has swept across the nation and even the world. The tumultuous events of spring have created one disruption after another. Although disruption can be painful, endings create space for change.
When available, a portion of client assets are directed to so-called “regenerative investments” in the private market. Natural Investments seeks funds and companies with an elevated business model that takes into account the public good. The authenticity of the model is usually backed by language in the corporate charter or third-party certifications verifying moral conduct at all levels: people, planet, and prosperity. The objectives foster a regenerative business structure at the outset, that can then be maintained through any economic environment.
$89M in regenerative investments are spread across several main categories of impact.
Scientists been clear that in order to prevent some of the runaway effects of climate change, it’s not enough to simply reduce our dependence on fossil-fuels: we also have to draw down and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Radically shifting the way we use and manage land is integral in tackling the climate crisis, and the choices we make around forest management offer significant potential to mitigate global climate change and biodiversity loss.
Forests cover about 31% of Earth’s global land area, and a quarter of them lie in the temperate zone (mostly in the Northern Hemisphere). Today, 99% of temperate forests have been altered in some way—timbered, converted to agriculture, or disrupted by development. Project Drawdown considers temperate forest restoration
In the last year, the climate crisis seems to have finally gotten its due in mainstream culture. The deniers are still dishing distractions, but the voices for change are now front and center. Perhaps Greta Thunberg’s sailboat journey to the United Nations was the turning point? Was it the asset manager BlackRock finally making a public declaration on the urgency of sustainability? Or maybe Amazon’s Climate Pledge to achieve “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2040? Certainly, the wildfires, floods, and sixty-degree weather in Antarctica make it harder to pretend the climate crisis hasn’t begun. Whatever future historians peg as the tipping point, it’s clear that we must mobilize a massive change in our entire global economy.
Natural Investments continues to purchase offsets for the carbon impact of our business activities. Our primary carbon impact comes from air travel for conferences and meetings.
This article is from our archives as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters.
A reflection on how our founders came to “natural investing” over thirty years ago, planting the seeds for today’s vibrant Natural Investments group, which includes twenty advisors all across the U.S. helping clients manage a half billion dollars in regenerative and conscious capital.
Photo: Jack Brill, founder of Natural Investments, with his son and partner Hal Brill.
“Yes, this is Mr. Brill, rep number 638, with an order to sell 4,000 shares of Exxon at market.” I completed the trade for my client and stepped out of my office with a satisfied smile. I had just helped a conscientious investor divest herself from a company whose environmental transgressions offended her. And look where I was! The Wall Street clerk taking my order must have pictured me in a stuffy brokerage suite with ticker tapes flashing. But in 1992 I had taken refuge in a relic travel trailer parked on a friend’s high desert acreage outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Along the south side I built an arching sunroom with straw-bale walls. A 500-foot extension cord and phone line snaked through the pinyon and juniper trees, linking me and my laptop to the world. I wore Guatemalan shorts to work, not a pinstriped suit.
Climate change is one of the most urgent global crises facing humanity. This was as true during the Great Recession of 2007-2008 as it is today––yet while government institutions were immediately summoned to support our financial recovery, no such action was taken to mitigate climate change. More than 10 years later, our economy has recovered, but climate change has worsened.
In the United States, neither our leaders nor our institutions are providing the kind of bold climate leadership we need. International organizations that are working to maintain a livable climate don’t have sufficient jurisdictional power or financial resources to achieve impact at the speed and scale necessary to mitigate and adapt to the crisis. What can be done?
Since 2006, Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT has served small, family-owned organic farming enterprises by helping them grow their businesses, while supporting the growth and impact of the organic movement. The aim has been to increase the availability of nutritious organic foods while working to support long term soil health. As cofounder and CEO David Miller has said,” We want to help organic farmers provide an answer to the dead soil mono culture across the U.S.”
For over twenty-five years, Green Century Capital Management has been a leader in shareholder advocacy. This year, Green Century focused on two themes: sustainable agriculture and climate change. As part of its climate change advocacy, Green Century has been diligently working to promote plant-based proteins—as well as the preservation of tropical forests, the reduction of food waste, and a renewable energy transformation.
Plant-based proteins have received media attention in recent years due to the growing awareness that meat production is one of the main drivers of deforestation in the tropics. Globally, the production of livestock for human consumption generates 14% of the emissions that cause climate change.
By working with investors and agricultural companies,