Posts Tagged ‘Advocacy’

Black Economic Self-Determination with Ed Whitfield

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.

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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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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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Shareholder Activism: The Name of The Game

Socially responsible investing has gone mainstream, if you haven’t heard.  Recent reports show that the total amount of professionally managed money invested with social and or environmental criteria has topped $11 trillion.  This hasn’t gone unnoticed by a myriad of large and small investment companies and advisors.  It is now more important than ever for committed conscientious investors to understand the various shades of socially responsible investment options in the marketplace.  Much of what passes for environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments end up as merely a fund of typical companies which have been run through a screener to weed out the worst of them, known as “avoidance investing,” and their work is done.  That’s it, pretty thin soup for investors aspiring to improve the world.

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BLM: Resources for Solidarity Actions

The recent national outcry over police violence against Black Americans highlights both the institutional racism of the criminal justice system and the deep socioeconomic disparities Black communities must contend with. Natural Investments has long been committed to channeling investment capital to community development intermediaries and enterprises operated by and for people of color as a way to address systemic inequality. To bolster Black economic power in this moment, here are some resources for directing investment capital into communities of color.

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2019 Shareholder Advocacy Review

Natural Investments is involved in a range of efforts with our industry colleagues that facilitate positive economic, social and environmental change, including shareholder engagement with companies and public policy advocacy. Natural Investments regularly engages in corporate and political advocacy to protect ecosystems, defend human rights, and advance racial and economic justice. In 2019, we participated in more than 30 environmental, social, and governance activities on behalf of investors on issues ranging from gun violence and shareholder rights to climate change and reproductive rights.

2019 Social Impact Report

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Progress on Private Prison Divestment

The private prison divestment movement has gathered great momentum since our June 2019 webinar, “Private Prison Divestment—Justice for Refugees and Migrants”. During that event, we provided an overview of the movement’s history and an update on current developments, mainly related to the family separation crisis at the US and Mexico border. In June, only two of the six major banks lending to the private prison industry had announced their intent to halt financing, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Over the subsequent six months, US Bank, Bank of America, SunTrust, BNP Paribas, Fifth Third, PNC, and Barclays followed suit. By the end of 2019, the two major private prison companies, CoreCivic and GEO Group, were estimated to face an 87% financing gap as a result of this withdrawal of funds from their primary lenders.

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Battling Government’s Assault on Shareholder Rights

The Securities and Exchange Commission has announced its intention to make fundamental changes that would impede one of the most important tools to advance corporate social responsibility: the rights of shareholders to influence corporate policies and practices. In order to raise public awareness of what’s at stake, leading advocates for socially responsible investing have launched the Investor Rights Forum website. The forum provides current information and commentary on the importance of shareholder advocacy, case studies of successful shareholder engagements, details on the SEC’s proposals to undermine long-standing precedents, and efforts underway to prevent proposed rule changes from going into effect.

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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

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Supporting the Youth-Led Movement for Gun Control

For those of us who remember Columbine, the Parkland massacre and its immediate aftermath evoked a colossal feeling of failure. How could it be that two decades and dozens of mass shootings later, nothing had changed?

But as the days turned to weeks, a steely resolve grew within the Parkland students’ collective trauma. They joined forces with Black and Latino youth organizers across the country that have been laboring for decades— ignored by the mainstream media—to stop the scourge of daily gun violence and police shootings that have ravaged their communities. Together, these young people are growing the resistance movement that our generation did not. Serious gun control discussions are finally on the table in America, thanks to children who are tired of executing active shooter drills in closets or taking different routes home to avoid stray bullets.

As socially responsible investment professionals, not only are we deeply inspired; we have a range of tactics to support these young activists in their quest for commonsense gun control laws—many of which we have been using for years already.

At Natural Investments, none of our client funds hold stock in companies with assault or military weapons. Our Heart Rating process asks mutual funds about their weapons and defense holdings as well. Complete purification of the portfolio is, admittedly, difficult. In fact, Bloomberg published two articles—one for and the other against the effectiveness of divestment—within two days of each other.

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