Impact Themes from 2017
Investing in women, pushing companies to add more women to the board and C-Suite, and including more women in the upper echelons of financial services has been a theme throughout the year, with visibility best exemplified in the Fearless Girl statue installed by State Street Bank. In August, I interviewed Joe Keefe, CEO of Pax World about the importance of investing in gender equality. In December I was interviewed in a piece entitled, “Is Wall Street Still A Bastion For Male Domination?” My answer: “The makeup of our board rooms, C-suites, and companies should reflect the diversity of the broader communities in which we live. We’re pitifully behind as an industry but if everyone steps up, we can change the face of our industry for the next generation.”
Large passive investors Blackrock and Vanguard (finally and after much nudging by the impact community) publicly acknowledge the importance of corporate responsibility around climate action by joining major shareholder engagement proposals. “In late May during proxy season, the big three supported a shareholder resolution to require Exxon Mobil (XOM) to report on the impact of measures designed to hold climate change to two degrees centigrade, as outlined in the Paris climate accord. A minirebellion, garnering 62% of shareholders’ votes, came during proxy season that marked the first time BlackRock and Vanguard voted for a climate-related proposal. State Street had previously voted for such proposals.”
Measurement of Impact:
Impact investors increasingly embrace the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (also known as “SDGs”) as a framework for orienting and measuring impact.
Consolidation & Acquisitions:
Mutual fund family, and major name in the SRI world, Calvert was acquired by Eaton Vance; another fund family with a long SRI history, Pax World was purchased by Impax, and impact money manager First Affirmative was acquired by Folio Institutional.
Increasing Interest in Impact Investing:
Most of the major financial services companies are adding resources in the Impact/ ESG/ Responsible Investing space, each calling it something a little different. Investment services companies, like Morgan Stanley, UBS, and Blackrock have major impact investing offerings. Media and content companies like Forbes and Investopedia are dedicating resources to cover the space. Platforms such as Envestnet are Morningstar are developing impact offerings and tools. (Morningstars’ Jon Hale’s Medium blog is one of my favorite weekly reads.) And robo-advisors are making space on their platforms for the increased interest in impact investing they see from consumers; with two robos, Swell and OpenInvest focusing exclusively on Impact Investing.
My 2017 in review
2017 was an exciting year for me both personally and professionally.
Solutions With Sonya begins: At the end of 2016 I began consulting with a select number of clients while I built out the infrastructure for my new business. I officially launched the business in mid-2017, started an impact leaders interview series, and spoke at 11 different events, including FPA NorCal and the SRI Conference and attended many others, including SOCAP. I joined Twitter (better late than never!) and I was honored to be interviewed at length by Courtney McQuade of Kurtosys.
Volunteer service: For the last few years I have been deeply involved in the wonderful work that CUESA does, supporting farmers, families, our local economy, and a sustainable food shed. So, I was honored to begin serving as board president this year.
Personal: This year allowed for more time with friends and family than prior years have. Since my husband happened to have sabbatical scheduled for this same time, we were able to go on vacation with our kids for nearly a month. We spent most of the time in Fiji, which we loved. In the fall, my older son started second grade and my younger son started preschool.
Looking forward to 2018
In preparing for 2018, I’m looking forward to the following:
Serving the growing market of RIAs adding impact investing to their practice.
Helping my clients be more efficient so they can spend more time with their clients and do the work they love.
Attending impact investing and RIA events and speaking on practice management and impact investing throughout the year, starting with the Engage NAPFA group in January.