Spotlight: RUNWAY

RUNWAY was founded in 2017 by leaders in the women of color entrepreneurship ecosystem to help provide “friends and family”- style capital, expertise, and mentorship to Black businesses who are vitally important to the communities they serve yet continue to face many barriers to building their businesses.

Since launching its first pilot program in partnership with Self Help Federal Credit Union in Oakland, Calif., with a modest $500,000, RUNWAY has since expanded nationally and now directs several million dollars to support Black businesses on both coasts. As a 100% Black and Brown-women led financial innovation firm, RUNWAY is a great example of an innovative impact investment group

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Market Report – Spring 2021

On December 14, as a year of staggering loss was coming to a close, Covid-19 vaccine distribution began in the United States. As of this writing, more than 124 million people have received the vaccine, while 46 million people (more than 14% of the total US population) are fully vaccinated. The accelerating pace of vaccination is good news from a public health perspective, a welcome harbinger for the many households that have suffered financially during the pandemic, and critical to the economic recovery of the nation.

For the first quarter, large company stocks in the US rose 6.2%, smaller company stocks were up 12.7%, foreign stocks were higher by 3.5%, and US bonds (broadly measured) were down -3.4%.  As vaccination rates grew, business restrictions relaxed and employment forecasts brightened. Optimism about the US economy grew during the first quarter, helping to support the markets. Over the last year, market growth

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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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