Nia Impact Capital – Top Wins for 2022
At Nia we love the end of December–this most quiet week of the year. We take time to look back on the previous year and all of its ups and downs. As we reflect on 2022, we know the challenges were great. Many of us were ready to move forward after the pandemic, and the world had its own ideas of how 2022 would play out. With so much global uncertainty, the markets were volatile. And, those of us committed to fossil fuel free investing had lower short term returns than the incumbent economy portfolios. That said, we were busy working on all the places we could have a positive impact. We accomplished a lot and had some big wins amidst the head winds. In our practice of pointing positive we are grateful and excited to share some big successes.
Our Top Wins for 2022
1 This year we celebrated being selected as a top-scoring B corp and named a Best for the World company. We are proud to continue to be the top scoring financial services firm among B corps. And this year Nia excelled in two separate categories:
Best for the World: Customers 2022 B Corp
Best for the World: Governance 2022 B Corp
We are truly honored to be selected in the Governance category for the second consecutive year. Our firm is Gender Equity Now certified and we draw on much of the research behind that certification to implement policies and practices that contribute to a positive and inclusive work environment and company culture.
We are also so proud to be co-founders and signatories of We the Change, an organization devoted to furthering gender equity and diversity efforts within the business for good community.
2 We launched a mutual fund!
Certainly one of our biggest wins of 2022 was the May launch of our mutual fund, investing at the intersection of environmental sustainability and social justice. With women managing less than 1% of our global assets (still hard to believe these statistics!), there are very very few women-led firms that ever make it to launching a fund. The process was no small feat and we are thrilled to be walking our talk in democratizing access to positively impactful investing in public markets. Now, anyone interested in the Nia investment strategy can include the portfolio in their retirement accounts. To learn more, and view important disclosures, visit us at Nia Impact Funds.
3 Standing Tall in our Commitment to Reproductive Rights
There is no mincing of words: This was a brutal year for reproductive freedom. We at Nia doubled down on the work we do to support equity in the workplace and equality for women and girls. Our gender-lens investing strategy has always prioritized women in leadership and products and services that support women and girls. Early in the year we began discussions with our portfolio companies on their need to step into leadership in providing health care in the case the government would no longer do so. In July, just days after the Dobbs decision, we notified each of our U.S. portfolio companies making clear our asks of them during these times. Nia also joined 179 other businesses to publicly condemn the Dobbs decision, raising our voice to say that restricting abortion is bad for business. We are committed to continuing this path toward greater equality and autonomy over our own bodies, and will continue to raise the issue with companies asking them not simply to support their female employees by continuing to provide access to necessary reproductive healthcare services, but to be vocal about their decisions such that supporting all employees equally becomes the norm.
4 Presenting at Tesla AGM
Amidst all of the headlines, Nia continues its shareholder activism at Tesla. We began raising the issue of addressing systemic racism and gender-bias by asking companies to look at their concealment clauses and NDAs within employee contracts as these clauses can be detrimental to women and people of color. Tesla has thus far, not been open to change or to listening to their investors on this issue. Given the number of employees who have contacted us, I wrote an open letter to Elon Musk about the importance of valuing employees, and building a positive company culture. I also penned a piece directed at Elon Musk about the importance of CEO Integrity. Nia continues to file resolutions requesting that the board address racial discrimination at Tesla.
In August, I traveled to the annual shareholder meeting and gave a three minute speech about ending a culture of racial exclusion. While the resolution did not receive a majority vote, we are celebrating the courage it took (and honestly I had to muster a lot of it) to stand up in that room and address that CEO and his devotees. We also celebrate our commitment to taking a stand on big issues, and for our tenacity to keep at it. (Yes, we are actively strategizing next moves for 2023, and working in an investor coalition to raise a collective voice for change). And, perhaps the biggest win on the Tesla front is having removed the stock from client portfolios early in the year because we saw the red flags and the brand risk early on.
5 Ninety One Grants to Community Change Makers
At Nia we use investing as a tool for change, and we know that investment dollars into big companies is one tool among many. We believe in providing grants to nonprofits as well– organizations that are doing amazing work in our communities. In 2022 we were able to make 91 grants in total, many supporting social justice efforts, some addressing racial inequity, some to organizations expanding the impact investing movement, several to support educational equity, others supporting access to voting, some protecting our rivers, and several grants that directly support efforts to reverse climate change (Spoiler alert: we will release our annual impact report in January, highlighting specific partner organizations). In December, we partnered with Ignite for a year-end matching challenge (do check out this powerful group of young women in politics).
6 David and Goliath in Modern Times: Apple win on NDAs (December 2022)
Nia’s shareholder activism is paying off! While many of our wins happen on a zoom screen, behind the scenes in a series of conversations with our portfolio companies, sometimes the action escalates and moves from the zoom screen to the SEC and onto the shareholder proxy ballot. Nia began discussions with Apple in 2021 regarding their use of concealment clauses and NDAs in employment contracts. We won a majority vote asking the board to report on this issue and how the use of NDAs affects their inclusion efforts. This December Apple announced that “‘employees have the right to speak freely about their workplace conditions, including harassment and discrimination’ following an independent review.” After much activism, Nia got everything we asked for including removing NDAs from all employee contracts, for full time, part time and international workers.
We can now take this win to the rest of the tech industry, as well as all companies across the United States. As we close out 2022 we are already looking forward to using our investor voice and actions for change in 2023.