Empowering the structurally excluded


Empowering the structurally excluded

This is the second in a series of blogs of about being impactful during the COVID-19 pandemic.

May 1, 2020

As mentioned in last week’s blog about creating impact during COVID-19, we at Rally Assets are viewing this pandemic through the lens of impact investing and assessing how we and other impact investors can respond to the crisis in deliberate and positive ways.
At Rally we use the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to frame our investment approach by grouping them into five investable themes, which are proving useful when thinking about how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s note explores our theme of ‘empowering the structurally excluded’.
Empowering the Structurally Excluded is about creating equal access to resources and opportunities and reversing structural inequalities. What are structural inequalities? We think Giving Compass offers a great explanation:

“They are inequalities deeply woven into the very fabric of a society. They can be observed across institutions such as legal, educational, business, government and healthcare systems. Inequalities occur because of an imbalance in the distribution of political and economic power. While one group has historically set the rules and writes the law of the land, access of others to wealth and resources have been limited.”

When we think about structural inequality, we’re concerned with how to get all people the resources for lasting economic opportunity. Accordingly, this theme encompasses five SDGs:

  • Goal 4: Quality Education
  • Goal 5: Gender Equality
  • Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

What does this theme mean in terms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is laying bare the harsh human impact of structural exclusion and inequality. We now have greater common understanding about students’ unequal access to computers and the internet, and how that diminishes their ability to participate in online education.

We’ve seen how those without decent work – gig workers, those without benefits, those working below a living wage and no job security – are now considered  essential during this pandemic to stock grocery shelves,  clean hospital rooms or deliver goods and services.

And we’ve seen that many of the indirect effects of the pandemic are disproportionate, borne by women and racialized people – whether one considers the shocking increases in domestic violence, the high numbers of immigrants in the care sector, or racially motivated attacks.

How impact investors can help to empower the structurally excluded during COVID-19

Invest time and energy

In the midst of our first virtual proxy and AGM season, the importance of active ownership has never been greater. Impact investors of all sizes are raising their voices to advocate on issues of inequality and decent work that have been exacerbated by COVID-19. For example, investors in public companies have the right to vote on issues such as executive compensation structures, diversity and human rights policies at many corporate AGMs. Voting decisions are a powerful way for investors to signal confidence, or lack thereof, in company management, to be explicit and encourage the change that needs to happen by directly engaging with the company.

Many structural exclusions are policy related. Use your voice as a citizen and investor to advocate for increases to government support payments, including disability payments, so that those receiving them have enough money to fully participate in society; or work for changes to labour laws so that gig workers have greater legal protections.

Walking the talk: At Rally we think deeply about shareholder engagement and proxy policies for the companies we and our clients invest in. In considering proxy votes and engagement, we look beyond an ESG lens to drive empowerment of the structurally excluded.

Make charitable donations

Empowering the structurally excluded during this pandemic could mean making a charitable donation to organizations working to reduce domestic violence, operate gender-based violence shelters, house the homeless, secure anti-racism policies, or give more workers safer and better working conditions.

Walking the talk: With frontline health care workers in our Rally family, we are very aware of the incredible efforts and sacrifices they are making on behalf of us all. But their generosity doesn’t end there – the staff of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto have set up a charitable fund to support their homeless patient community who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Rally staff are donating time and money to support this amazing community response to house the most vulnerable.

Invest in companies that are helping to empower the structurally excluded

Without making any specific company recommendations, we encourage you to invest in companies that are helping to empower the structurally excluded during this pandemic. When considering companies whose actions support empowerment, think about the following:

  • Who benefits from this company’s service, product or technology? Are they structurally excluded or privileged?
  • Who does this company employ? And are their jobs protected or vulnerable? What supports are in place?
  • What do the structurally excluded really need? Does this company serve that need?
  • How might this company’s work reduce exclusion?

Intentional investing today creates the tomorrow we want – and that thinking holds true in this pandemic, whether one is contributing time, charitable dollars or invested capital.

We’d love to hear what you think of our themes and our ideas.

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