Updated: May 4, 2020
As sustainable and impact investing become more commonplace, more investors are seeking investments that reflect their personal values, and products and services are coming to market to meet that demand. Those products and services have varying levels of impact, though it can be hard for an investor with deeply held social justice values to discern between products and services making authentic impact and those with good marketing.
So, how can you tell if your investments are truly aligned with your social justice values? And how do you know if your investment advisor is focused on making real impact with your money? Today we’ll cover that second question. Stay tuned for more on the first question in a future post.
3 questions to ask your investment advisor about investing with authentic impact Below, we offer the three most important questions anyone with social justice values should ask their investment advisor, tips on how to think about the answers, as well as the answers we give to these questions at RISE.
Question 1: What impact issues are you addressing through my investments? When listening to your advisor’s answer, reflect on whether you agree on which issues you want your investments to address. Is your advisor’s focus solely only on climate change and the environment, or do they also focus on the social justice issues that matter to you? Other issues frequently ignored by investment advisors include racial, gender, and economic justice.
Our answer at RISE: We care deeply about racial justice and view it as inextricably linked to climate change. We also address issues of gender and economic justice, and not just for people at the top of the corporate ladder, but with people from all socioeconomic classes in mind.
Question 2: How are you interpreting and measuring that impact? Does your advisor’s method for impact make sense to you and is it actually impactful? For example, is gender equity authentically impacted for all classes of women when a company increases the number of women on its board, but continues to force employees who have experienced sexual harassment into private arbitration proceedings?
Our answer at RISE: We determine our social justice investing criteria in partnership with impacted communities. Through meaningful conversations and sourcing community-driven data, we work with those communities to identify and measure how we’re making an impact. For example, in support of the #MeToo movement, gender equity, and workplace safety, RISE is leading a nationwide campaign to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims in publicly traded companies.
To promote racial justice, RISE divests, and coordinates others to divest, from companies that operate or substantially benefit from:
• Private Prisons & Detention Centers • Prison Labor • Money Bail • Predatory Lending • For-Profit Colleges • Exploiting Indigenous Peoples • Industrial seed, agrochemical, and synthetic fertilizer companies
Question 3: Who told you to solve for impact that way? Notice whether your financial advisor is solving for impact based solely on the guidance of financial services companies and academic experts rather than looking to social justice movements and organizations that represent impacted communities.
Our answer at RISE: At RISE we form meaningful relationships with impacted communities and social justice movements, asking them what type of impact they would have us make as investor-owners of publicly traded companies. These organizations are from, and represent the interests of, communities most directly impacted by our traditional financial system, which fails to prioritize social justice. We draw inspiration in choosing these partners from groups like Color of Change, The Poor People’s Campaign, and Movement Generation, who have the infrastructure to act as thought leaders, campaign collaborators, and bridge-builders between finance and social justice organizations.
Robasciotti & Philipson