Top 5 Social Justice Investing Themes For Human Rights and Equal Opportunity

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and the 150th anniversary of African American men’s suffrage in the United States. These two important milestones in the march toward gender and racial equality are examples of the causes promoted by social justice investing.

This form of impact investing supports the pursuit of human rights and equal opportunity for people of all backgrounds in the U.S. and beyond. Investing with social justice values means assessing how one’s investments will impact the people they touch. Investors concerned about social justice can consider opportunities in five thematic areas, depending on their values and interests:

1. Environmental justice

Environmental justice explores how climate change affects society and disproportionately affects low-income communities, including many who live in areas exposed to extreme weather events and pollution, causing poor health conditions. Investments tackling climate change include renewable energy infrastructure, which can reduce greenhouse gases and toxic emissions near low-income communities. 

2. Racial justice

Racial justice investing includes promoting racial equity, inclusion, and representation in companies. For context, only 1% of S&P 500 CEOs are African American and 37% of S&P 500 boards have no African American directors. Investors may assess the racial diversity of a company’s workforce, its racial pay equity, and company initiatives supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

3. Gender justice

Investors can pursue gender lens strategies to back companies with equal representation of men and women in their workforce and leadership. Investors can also assess a company’s policies on sexual harassment, maternity and paternity leave, and gender pay equity. Opportunities for gender lens investments are plentiful. In fact, the assets under management in gender lens investing strategies increased from $100 million in 2014 to $2.3 billion in 2018. 

4. Economic justice

By applying an economic justice lens, investors can explore what role a company takes in providing fair and equitable opportunities to its stakeholders, particularly employees. Does the company pay fair and livable wages? Are its products sourced from fair trade? Moreover, how does the company approach affordability, accessibility, and philanthropy? Companies that exhibit economic justice would pay fair wages, advance philanthropic initiatives, and integrate financial inclusion in their business models.

5. Stakeholder justice

In any company’s business model, it is important to consider how the company impacts all of its stakeholders — employees, customers, suppliers or even shareholders. What are the company’s supply chain management and sourcing mechanisms? How does the company interact with its surrounding communities?

Environmental, racial, gender, economic and stakeholder justice represent some of the social justice principles for measuring a company’s impact. Although the list is not exhaustive, exploring these themes can enable investors to construct investment portfolios that advance social justice.

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