Packaged Food, Palm Oil, and Deforestation | Impact Investing Success Story with Leslie Samuelrich of Green Century Funds

Packaged Food, Palm Oil, and Deforestation | Impact Investing Success Story with Leslie Samuelrich of Green Century Funds

Years ago, I was attending the SRI Conference. I hosted a small reception in my hotel room. To keep in their good graces, I invited the conference guests staying adjacent to my hotel room to join in the festivities. One of those guests was Leslie Samuelrich, President of Green Century Capital Management. We had never met before, but she came right over, and we’ve been friends since. Recently, I was able to interview her about one of her recent impact success stories. I hope you enjoy hearing the story as much as I did.

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Racial Disparities in the Workforces of Sustainable, Responsible, and Impact (SRI) Investing Mutual Funds

I'm excited to share with you a paper I co-authored on the racial disparities in staffs and boards of SRI mutual funds.  Socially responsible funds pursue positive social and environmental impact through both investment selection and shareholder engagement. Because people of color are often affected first and worst by the issues SRI funds are trying to improve, it would behoove the industry to have people of color in decision-making positions at these firms, at least in an amount representative of the US population. (Although I'm making the business case here, but I don't believe we need a business case to treat people equitably and create systems that are more just.)

Data on the racial and gender makeup of firms is not typically publicly disclosed, so my colleagues and I gathered data to see where we stand right now. The findings are detailed in the paper, both in summary charts, and detailed bullet points. Some of my thoughts on our findings are:

  • I'm grateful to work in a part of financial services that is willing to talk about race. For the most part, companies we contacted were willing to participate in this survey, and some of them have already been receptive to engaging in discussion around the findings.

  • The findings are a stark reminder that firms run by white people are not racially representative of the United States population.

  • We have a lot of work to do to become an industry that is actively welcoming and inclusive of people of color. 

I hope you'll read the paper and give it some thought. Our goal is to raise awareness of the disparities and also open the door to public disclosure, more discussion, and actions in service of representation, inclusion, and equity.

We will be discussing the paper in detail on the Racial Justice Investing (RJI) call on February 6, 2019 2PM Eastern, 11AM Pacific. Click to request to join RJI and the call.

We don't pretend to have all of the answers of what to do next. I welcome your thoughts and conversations. If you want to learn more about the topics the paper covers, we've listed a selection of resources at the end of the paper.