The stock market moved generally higher during the second quarter, although we saw a fairly sharp diversion between the results of domestic large company stocks and smaller company stocks. For the quarter, large US stocks were up 8.5%, small US stocks were up 4.3%, and foreign stocks were up 5.2%. Bonds rebounded from first quarter losses, rising 1.8% for the second quarter.
The past year was defined by incomprehensible loss—and for many, the losses were personal. In May, my father-in-law Bernie passed away on his 94th birthday. In the end, he said he was ready to go, but we are mourning the loss of an attentive and engaged family man who was like a second father to me.
In the midst of our grieving, I was thankful that we had done some planning ahead of time for this moment. With this recent experience in mind, here are some steps you can take to prepare in advance for inevitable end-of-life transitions.
Fifty years is a long time to be active in any field. For Tim Smith, his five decade career has been defined by leadership in the socially responsible investment industry. Smith co-founded the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, in 1971 and served as Executive Director from 1976 to 2000. The Episcopal Church, one of its members, was the first organization to file a shareholder resolution with a corporation; the resolution to General Motors in 1971 addressed its investment in South Africa’s apartheid regime.
Federal monetary and fiscal policies buoyed the stock market during the pandemic, but they did not keep millions of American families from sliding below the poverty line. Yet daily news commentaries tracking quarterly earnings and shareholder profits have painted a rosy picture of the 2021 economic recovery. The latest plan by the Biden Administration to help economically struggling families is a step in the right direction, but the proposed measures are not enough to address the threats posed by the extreme wealth disparity in the US that began to take hold decades ago.
Natural Investments hosted a webinar called “Black Economic Self-Determination: To Move Forward We Must Understand The Past” with Ed Whitfield of Seed Commons. Reconstruction, the period that followed the Civil War, was a time when attempts were made to repair our country and our economy from slavery. Reconstruction failed, and set us up for what we are experiencing now–a political, social and economic system based in white supremacy and white nationalist violence. The increasing racial wealth divide exacerbated by COVID, killings of Black people, flagrant racism under Trump, modern day red lining and the January 6th insurrection are all ways that we see and feel the vestiges of failed Reconstruction.
Download a full copy of our 2020 Social Impact Report
A Year of Transformation by Michael Kramer
One from the Heart: A Tribute to Jack Brill by Hal Brill
Putting Equity at the Center of our Organizational Culture by Carrie VanWinkle
Spotlight: Kachuwa Impact Fund by Brady Quirk-Garvan
Spotlight: New Summit Investments by Ryan Jones-Casey
Spotlight: RUNWAY by Nicole Middleton Holloway
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.
JACK BRILL, the founder of Natural Investments and a pioneering thought leader of the socially responsible investment (SRI) industry, passed away recently at the age of 89. As one of the earliest SRI advisors in the 1980s, Jack was a passionate advocate known for his generous heart and tireless work to advance an approach to investing that was radical in his early career. He wrote one of the first books on the field, Investing from the Heart (Crown, 1992), which was the basis for the Heart Rating, the first and most rigorous rating system of SRI mutual funds. From 1993 to 2000, Jack helped SRI achieve mainstream recognition through his competitive investment exercise in a quarterly NY Times series.
Despite the massive economic and social disruption wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, governments and investors continued to buoy the capital markets. Conscientious investors saw the opportunity to channel their money into funds supporting families and small businesses in crisis. Last year, Natural Investments and our clients held $785M in responsibly managed assets, representing a 21% increase from the prior year.
We directed a significant proportion of our client investments (approximately $541M) toward responsibly managed mutual funds and separately managed accounts that use ESG integration strategies. Applying environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria helps us screen out firms with the worst corporate behavior, an approach that minimizes poor performance risk, as shown by numerous studies.
Natural Investments as a firm has been on its own path of social justice since it began. It’s the core of our mission. And yet in the area of racial equity, we know there is much more that we can and want to accomplish.
Our natural focus is external, in that we are always looking for ways to help clients invest in systems change. But for the past few years, our firm’s rapid growth and circumstances in the bigger world have called on us to look inward—particularly when it comes to racial and gender equity.