Veris Wealth Partners Signs Onto The SME Climate Commitment to Achieve Net-Zero Emissions

Veris Wealth Partners is pleased to announce that we have formalized our longstanding goal to achieve Net-Zero carbon emissions by signing onto The Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Climate Commitment. By making this commitment, Veris has pledged to:

  • Reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% before 2030*
  • Achieve Net Zero Emissions before 2040
  • Disclose our progress on a yearly basis

Reducing our carbon footprint has been important to Veris since our firm’s inception. Long before we took this pledge, we made an internal commitment to reduce our carbon footprint and offset 100% of carbon used in our operations. We currently offset 100% of carbon emissions through fellow B Corp NativeEnergy, which uses high quality offsets certified by third parties such as the Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Registry. By signing onto the SME Climate Commitment, Veris publicly reconfirms our belief that climate change poses grave threats to the natural world, humanity, and the global economy and our conviction that all businesses have a responsibility to be part of the solution.

Net-Zero Action Steps

In accordance with our Climate Commitment, Veris will take the following action steps: Measurement – Veris will continue to measure our firm’s carbon footprint on an annual basis. Reduction – Veris will continue to seek innovative ways to reduce our emissions firmwide and adopt new practices to make progress towards our goal of net zero. Reporting – We have historically included data about our firm’s annual carbon footprint in our annual Impact Report and we will continue to do so to mark our progress.

Join the Effort to Achieve Net-Zero & Fight Climate Change

The SME Climate Commitment was designed to spur more small and medium sized organizations to take bigger steps to achieve our shared goal of emitting Net-Zero carbon emissions and is part of the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign. We believe that public accountability is a powerful tool to drive behavior change and we encourage more business leaders to join us in signing onto a Net-Zero commitment.

*Veris uses 2019 GHG emissions as the baseline year for GHG emissions to reduce by 2030.

A Look at a Few of the Potential Benefits & Limitations of The Inflation Reduction Act & Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

by Tim Kingsbury, Wealth Manager at Veris Wealth Partners


August 2022 saw encouraging news coming from Washington with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)1 and the introduction of the Biden Student Loan Forgiveness plan.2 The potential effects of these initiatives are too extensive to unpack quickly, but this brief overview offers insights into a few of the most promising benefits and some of the limitations.

Inflation Reduction Act / IRA

The IRA is an extremely complex piece of legislation that includes new spending, taxes, and policies that touch on climate and our environment, energy, manufacturing, transportation, health care, and other important parts of our society and our economy.3

Here is a look at a few of the credits and rebates included in the legislation that are likely to have a major impact for Americans and for our environment.

The IRA’s EV Tax Credit

Tax credits are a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax liability so they are more valuable than a tax deduction. The IRA includes a $7,500 New Electric Vehicle Tax Credit including two separate credits that take into account where the battery minerals were sourced and assembled.4 After the IRA was enacted on August 16, 2022 the tax credit was immediately effective for qualifying electric vehicles for which final assembly occurred in North America.5

We believe that one major potential positive impact of the IRA’s new credit is that it is likely to accelerate the onshoring of EV battery manufacturing in the United States so that we see significant growth over time. More information and changes to the eligibility requirements will be forthcoming in 2023.

Limitations

  • The IRA sets a Manufacturers Standard Retail Price (MSRP) cap of $55k for cars and $80k MSRP cap for new vans, trucks and SUVs. Vehicles priced over that amount do not qualify for the credit.
  • Before 2023, manufacturer sales caps of 200,000 vehicles are in effect that may negate the new tax credit, including vehicles from Tesla, GM and Toyota. Please refer to the Department of Energy’s list or use their VIN number decoder for availability as this is subject to change. Beyond 2023, manufacturer sales caps are lifted.
  • The law sets a Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) limit of $150k for individuals, $300k married filing jointly and $225k head of household.6
  • Note that the $4,000 Pre Owned Electric Vehicle Tax Credit, for model years at least two years earlier than year of purchase, are subject to MAGI limit of $75k individual, $150k married filing jointly and $112.5k head of household.

Prior to purchase, please consult your accountant or CPA to double check eligibility, as some provisions may change.

IRA High Efficiency Home Rebates

The IRA also offers incentives designed to help homeowners pay for more environmentally friendly and energy efficient home technologies, including a variety of rebates:7

  • $8,000 for heat pumps
  • $1,750 for heat pump water heaters
  • $840 for a heat pump clothes dryer or electric stove
  • $4,000 for electrical panel upgrades
  • $2,500 for electrical wiring improvements
  • $1,600 for insulation and sealing
  • And more…

Beginning sometime in 2023, various point of sale rebates should come online once additional guidelines are released.

Limitations

  • The law sets a collectable maximum of $14,000 in high efficiency home rebates.
  • To be eligible for these rebates, household income cannot exceed 150% of area median income as calculated by HUD. Fannie Mae provides an area median income lookup tool, but please consult your accountant or CPA to double check eligibility.

IRA Residential Clean Energy Credit

A tax credit for installing clean household energy such as solar (PV panels, batteries, setup costs etc.), wind, or geothermal has been raised from 26% to 30% from 2022 to 2032 – independent of the prior $14k High Efficiency Home Rebate cap.7

Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

The cost of college has soared over the last few decades, with the average price of tuition, fees, and room and board for an undergraduate degree jumping 169% between 1980 and 2020.8 Over the same period of time, government investment in financial support for students has declined.9 Massive amounts of student loan debt is the result. The Department of Education now estimated that the average American undergraduate student now graduates with nearly $25,000 in student loan debt. Those debts have a disproportionately high negative impact on middle class and lower income families, particularly on people of color, which many experts point to as a cause of the widening racial wealth gap in this country.10

To respond to this growing crisis, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and The Department of Education introduced a Student Loan Forgiveness Plan this August designed to provide relief to low and middle income federal student loan borrowers.11 This plan may yet be challenged at the Supreme Court, but currently it includes:

  • $10k of student loan forgiveness, plus an additional $10k if Pell Grants are held, if income was under $125k for individuals or $250k Married Filing Jointly/Head of Household for either years 2020 or 2021. Parents with PLUS loans are also eligible, subject to income limits.
  • The Federal student loan repayment freeze was extended until the end of 2022.
  • Monthly payments for income driven repayment plans were cut to 5% of a borrower’s discretionary income – down from 10% of discretionary income.
  • Monthly payments for graduate loans will be capped at 10% of discretionary income, down from 20%.
  • Balances will not increase as a result of accrued income as long as monthly payments are made on time.
  • Remaining balances will be totally forgiven after 20 years of payments or 10 years of payments if the balance is $12k or less.

Anyone who believes they are eligible should consult an accountant or tax professional for exact qualifications.

More Information Coming in 2023

We welcome these developments and we eagerly await additional information and guidelines. As 2023 approaches, these new policies will become more concrete and clear.

If you think you may benefit from the IRA or Student Loan Forgiveness plan, please consult your accountant/CPA, financial advisor, or wealth manager before taking any action.


Tim Kingsbury is a Wealth Manager and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. He is located in the New York office of Veris Wealth Partners and is focused on helping clients meet their financial and impact goals. Learn more.


The information above is provided for informational purposes only and reflects the views of the authors. Additionally, this document contains information derived from third party sources. Although we believe these third-party sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from such third-party sources and take no responsibility, therefore.


ESG Critics Are On The Wrong Side of History

by Stephanie Cohn Rupp, CEO of Veris Wealth Partners

Don’t take the wrong side of an argument just because your opponent has taken the right side.”                                                                                                                                              — Baltasar Gracián


Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing is facing a new round of criticism from American conservative leaders. Senator Ted Cruz, to offer one example, has framed BlackRock’s ESG policies as “abusing the market.”1 More alarming to me, are the new state-level policy attacks on ESG led by elected officials from across the United States. To offer three recent examples: 

  • Governor Ron DeSantis and trustees of Florida’s State Board of Administration passed a resolution barring state pension funds managers from considering ESG criteria.2
  • Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar banned state and local entities from doing business with ten banks that the state accused of boycotting the oil and gas industry.3
  • The State of West Virginia and its State Treasurer now refuse to do business with financial institutions that divest from fossil fuels.4

As I see it, these actions demonstrate a lack of concern for the financial performance of the pension-holders they supposedly wish to protect – as well as a lack of regard for the views of a vast majority of the American people. A recent Pew study showed that 69% of American adults want the US to focus on developing the infrastructure for wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources instead of expanding the production of oil, coal, and natural gas.5

I have spent the last twenty years of my career in global Impact and ESG investing, serving clients from across the political spectrum. From my perspective, these condemnations and policies designed to defend the fossil fuel industry show a deep misunderstanding of ESG investing and lack of knowledge about important megatrends that are shifting the views of Republicans and Democrats alike and shaping a future that will look very different from today.

These anti-ESG positions are, in my view, dangerously on the wrong side of history.

ESG Critics’ Biggest Mistake: Ignoring Stranded Assets

I believe the greatest mistake of policymakers enacting bans on ESG investing is that they are ignoring the risk of “stranded assets.” 

Lloyd’s defines stranded assets as those that “have suffered from unanticipated or premature write-downs, devaluation or conversion to liabilities” typically because of environmental changes caused by climate change.6  

By continuing to invest in fossil fuels, the pension systems of West Virginia, Texas, and Florida – and the pensioners who depend on them – will continue to be exposed to oil and gas and the risk of stranded assets.

Though fossil fuels continue to dominate the global energy system today, we are about to experience a sharp decline in their use because of new government regulations, sharp changes in consumer behavior, and the potential for legal action against emitters. Researchers have forecasted that 60% of oil and fossil methane gas, and 90% of coal will remain in the ground for the planet to not exceed a 1.5 °C carbon budget.7 These “assets” will remain stranded.

Stranded asset risk is not fully reflected today in the value of companies that extract fossil fuels. If this risk was priced in, as I think it will be in the future, this would result in a sudden drop in value that would affect investors and shareholders.

Whether you believe in climate change or not — as an investor, it is a dangerous bet to continue to invest in an industry which has a high probability of becoming obsolete. Returns to pensioners will most probably suffer as a result.

Error #2: Ignoring that Energy Companies are Making Net-Zero Commitments and Transition Plans

Several energy companies have now made Net-Zero commitments. Exxon-Mobil pledged net-zero carbon emissions from operations by 2050.8 Shell’s target is to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050.9 Why would policymakers force their states’ pensioners into investments in soon outdated energy, even while the energy companies are making these commitments and embarking on the energy transition?

In contrast, the states of Texas and Florida have yet to make a Net Zero commitment.

Error #3: Misreading *Republican* Opinion

The Republican politicians that are taking action against ESG are apparently not paying attention to the shifting views of their own voters. A Pew research study found that 88% of Republicans are supportive of specific policies to reduce climate change, such as planting a trillion trees to absorb carbon emissions, while 73% of Republicans are supportive of providing a tax credit to businesses to develop carbon capture and storage.10 My own experience supports polling data indicating that a vast majority of right and left-wing asset owners want to combat climate change.

Anti-ESG politicians should take note that voters from the opposing parties are not as far apart on this issue as it might seem. Another Pew study indicates that 77% of all Americans (including Democrats, Republicans and Independents) wish to prioritize renewables over fossil fuels.11

If we look at Pew’s findings broken down by political affiliation and gender, 66% of Republican women wish to move away from fossil fuels and 60% of Republican men agree.12 This data suggests that Republican women are more concerned about climate issues than Republican men. It is notable then that McKinsey projects that more than two-thirds of wealth in the US will be held by women by 2030.13 I believe this massive wealth transfer to women will cause a tidal wave of ESG investing — especially in climate solutions. Conservatives may now attack ESG investing as “woke,”14 but the data suggests that wealthy Republican women will increasingly invest in the clean energy transition.

A Majority of Americans Want Climate Solutions – More of our Leaders Need to Get on the Right Side of History 

Partisan voters and investors obviously still have polarized views on many issues, but all evidence suggests that they are now largely in agreement on climate change.

I believe that these myopic bans on ESG investing in Texas, Florida and West Virginia pose real world risks, not only to the pensioners of these state systems, but to all humanity – by supporting policies that exacerbate global warming and its catastrophic consequences.

I call on every American voter and every investor who agrees with me to send a message to the leaders who are on the wrong side of history – both with your votes and with your dollars.


Stephanie Cohn Rupp is the CEO of Veris Wealth Partners. She has worked globally in Impact and ESG investing since 2001 and is a Board Director of US SIF. Read Stephanie’s full bio.

The above article was originally published on the Medium.com website on August 31, 2022.

References

1 https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/24/sen-ted-cruz-blasts-larry-fink-over-woke-shareholder-votes-on-climate.html

2 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/24/business/dealbook/desantis-florida-esg-investing.html

3 https://www.texastribune.org/2022/08/24/texas-boycott-companies-fossil-fuels/

4 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/28/business/west-virginia-fossil-fuel-banks.html

5 https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2022/03/01/americans-largely-favor-u-s-taking-steps-to-become-carbon-neutral-by-2050/

6 https://www.lloyds.com/strandedassets

7 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34497394/

8 https://corporate.exxonmobil.com/News/Newsroom/News-releases/2022/0118_ExxonMobil-announces-ambition-for-net-zero-greenhouse-gas-emissions-by-2050

9 https://www.shell.com/powering-progress/achieving-net-zero-emissions.html

10 https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/07/23/on-climate-change-republicans-are-open-to-some-policy-approaches-even-as-they-assign-the-issue-low-priority/

11 https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2019/11/25/u-s-public-views-on-climate-and-energy/ps_11-25-19_climate-energy-00-014/

12 https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2019/11/25/u-s-public-views-on-climate-and-energy/ps_11-25-19_climate-energy-00-014/

13 https://www.pnc.com/insights/wealth-management/business-continuity-and-succession-planning/preparing-for-the-great-wealth-transfer-to-women.html

14 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-01/woke-inc-author-s-firm-targets-blackrock-esg-investing


The information above is provided for informational purposes only and reflects the views of the authors. Additionally, this document contains information derived from third party sources. Although we believe these third-party sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from such third-party sources and take no responsibility, therefore.


The End of Roe

With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent.1

– Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan


Veris Wealth Partners condemns the Supreme Court’s disgraceful decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

We share the sorrow expressed by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan in their dissenting opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and we find it appalling that women in the United States no longer have a federally guaranteed constitutional right to abortion access.

The Immediate and Future Impact of this Decision

At least 26 states are expected to ban abortion in the coming days.2 No one is exactly certain of what may come next, but the dissenting Justices wrote, “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”

In their response to the decision, the ACLU wrote that “Forcing women and other people to carry a pregnancy against their will has life-altering consequences, including enduring serious health risks from continued pregnancy and childbirth, making it harder to escape poverty, derailing their education, career and life plans, and making it more difficult to leave an abusive partner. This decision could also lead to pregnancy losses being subject to suspicion, investigation, and arrest, and patients and doctors being thrown in jail.”3

The response issued by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) sounded the alarm that almost half of US OB-GYN residency programs are located in the 26 states where abortion is expected to be outlawed. They make the point that it will now be challenging, if not impossible, for a great number of American medical school students to get vital training not only in abortion care, but also in treating women who are suffering miscarriages and other related OB-GYN issues.4

Another impact of this decision is that other rights are likely at risk. In his concurring opinion to the Dobbs decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell”.5 These are the decisions that guaranteed access to contraception, struck down sodomy laws and legalized same-sex marriage.

Action Steps

The next elections will be crucial to determining what comes next. Many say that this decision to overturn Roe was the result of 50 years of activism, voting, and political maneuvering from the anti-choice movement. We believe we all must rise to this moment and do what we can to fight for women’s rights, for human rights, in the United States.

Please vote.

Please support organizations that are still providing reproductive health care and those that are fighting for reproductive rights for women in the United States including:

Veris Wealth Partners reaffirms our commitment to continue to support the reproductive rights of women and girls in the United States.

Sincerely,

Veris Wealth Partners



The information above is provided for informational purposes only and reflects the views of the authors. Additionally, this document contains information derived from third-party sources.  Although we believe these third-party sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from such third-party sources and take no responsibility, therefore.


Veris Wealth Partners Supports Women’s Reproductive Rights

“Restrictive abortion regulation can cause distress and stigma, and risk constituting a violation of human rights of women and girls, including the right to privacy and the right to non-discrimination and equality, while also imposing financial burdens on women and girls.” 1 -The World Health Organization


Since 1973, American women have had a federally guaranteed constitutional right to abortion access. A leaked first draft of Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion has given us early warning that the Supreme Court is preparing to take that right away by overturning Roe v. Wade.2

Veris Wealth Partners affirms our support for women’s rights – including women’s right to have control over their bodies. We are unapologetically pro-choice. We believe that access to abortion is a basic right to medical care. We also condemn any effort to demonize abortion, as women often make this choice with anguish.

The Potential Consequences of the End of Roe

Striking down Roe v. Wade means the states will decide this issue. After Roe falls, over half of all states are expected to outlaw abortion3 and in some cases deem doctors, medical teams, and patients as criminals.4 The state of Texas, for example, has already passed a “trigger-ban” ordering that anyone arrested for performing or inducing an abortion be charged with a first-degree felony5 – punishable by life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

We believe that this decision will negatively impact millions of women in the United States – including those who are likely to resort to dangerous, and often deadly, non-medical methods of abortions. According to the World Health Organization, “unsafe abortion is a leading – but preventable – cause of maternal deaths and morbidities” globally.6

Our leading health institutions do not support the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Dr. Gerald Harmon, president of the American Medical Association, responded to Alito’s leaked draft by saying, “With deliberations underway, we strongly urge the Court to reject the premise of the draft opinion and affirm precedent that allows patients to receive the critical reproductive health care that they need. Allowing the lawmakers of Mississippi or any other state to substitute their own views for a physician’s expert medical judgment puts patients at risk and is antithetical to public health and sound medical practice.”7

The Outsized Impact of this Decision on Marginalized Women & Girls

Because of long-standing inequities in our country, women and girls from marginalized backgrounds are expected to experience the worst impacts of the Supreme Court’s decision.8 Lack of access to adequate healthcare and contraception means that women of color are more likely to experience unintended pregnancy than white women.9 Evidence of racial disparities in women’s access to health care can already be seen in maternal mortality data. Research compiled by the CDC in 2020 showed that the maternal death rate for Black women was 2.9 times greater than the rate for non-Hispanic white women.10 The worst negative economic impacts of this decision are also expected to disproportionately fall on BIPOC women.11

Additional Support is Needed for Women and Families in the United States

Many women choose abortions because they cannot afford to raise a child.12 In addition to full reproductive rights, we believe that women and their families also need access to:
● Affordable healthcare
● Family planning and contraceptives (including education and training)
● Policies that support mothers and families
● Paid family leave
● Affordable childcare
● Workplaces that support parents through scheduling, pay, benefits…etc.
● Tax policy that provides financial benefit to family caregivers

Actions We Are Taking

Veris made a corporate donation to Planned Parenthood Federation of America in May 2022, which was matched by Partners within the firm.

Through our investment managers, Veris clients have taken meaningful actions related to reproductive rights:

● As You Sow filed four resolutions related to sexual and reproductive health in 2022.13 30 Veris clients have endorsed two separate reproductive rights resolutions “Report on risks of policies restricting reproductive rights and strategies to minimize or mitigate risks”.

 – 23 Veris clients endorsed this resolution for TJX Companies
– 7 of our clients endorsed this same resolution for Kroger.

● Another Veris investment manager has filed shareholder resolutions and engaged with portfolio companies on reproductive health & rights and political donations to organizations that are anti-abortion.14

● Another manager provided Veris with proxy voting guidelines for abortion/right to life issues.15

As we know the cost of keeping a child is sometimes prohibitive to women in a precarious financial situation, we have also taken action to support paid family leave. In support of mothers, in 2021 we worked with the Paid Leave for the United States (PL+US) campaign to advocate for a national paid family leave bill in the Build Back Better package. We signed on to the initiative and Alison Pyott met with US Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office to voice our support. We also provided statements of support including why as a small business this was important to us and our recent paid family leave policy change at Veris. We will continue to support the PL+US network efforts.

What You Can Do

Vote.

Call your congressional representatives and urge them to act to protect women’s access to reproductive choice and health care.

Support organizations that are working to help women get the health care information and services they need while helping to protect reproductive rights for women in the United States:

Planned Parenthood
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Center for Reproductive Rights
The National Abortion Federation (NAF)

We hope that you will join us in protecting the reproductive rights of women and girls in the United States.

Sincerely,
Veris Wealth Partners



The information above is provided for informational purposes only and reflects the views of the authors. Additionally, this document contains information derived from third party sources. Although we believe these third-party sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from such third-party sources and take no responsibility, therefore.


6 Trends Shaping the Future of Impact and ESG Investing

By Roraj Pradhananga

The Impact and ESG investing space is growing and changing rapidly. These are a few of the emerging trends that we are paying close attention to at Veris Wealth Partners. 

1. The Mainstreaming of Impact and ESG Investing

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and impact funds/investments have performed very well, and interest in impact investing is growing at a tremendous rate. Globally speaking, ESG assets are expected to grow to $41 trillion by 2022 and $50 trillion by 2025. The United States has now surpassed Europe in ESG growth. ESG assets in the US are on track to grow to $20 trillion in 2022.1 According to the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) survey, impact investing assets under management (AUM) increased from $502 billion2 in 2019 to $715 billion in 2020.3 The IFC estimates the impact investing market to be even larger at $2.3 trillion including $1.3 trillion that are managed by publicly owned Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) and national/regional development banks. Of the $2.3 trillion in AUM, $636 billion represented core AUM managed by privately owned asset managers and DFIs where intent, contribution and impact measurement are identified. This is an increase from $505 billion in 2019.4

It is really exciting to see our sector headed towards the mainstream, but we aren’t there yet. My inner skeptic sees interests in ESG and impact investing that are driven solely by increasing consumer demand and not by intentionality, which is important for cohesiveness and long-termism – qualities that define our industry. A recent survey by HSBC found that of 528 institutions with $12.6 trillion in AUM indicated that 33% of respondents said attracting capital or inflows is the strongest reason for integrating ESG followed by 26% stating competition or peer pressure, not because of their convictions or commitment to environmental and social sustainability.5 I believe not all of these assets represent authentic ESG or impact focused investments or full ESG integration. Not all of these are hundred percent ESG integrated and some are exclusionary only.

Veris is an impact focused wealth management firm, and we take extra steps to determine authenticity. We believe the fund managers we invest our client assets with do care. For them it is not just about growth in assets under management. We believe there is a difference between what our clients are invested in and the overall market. 

2. Greenwashing and Impact Washing

We believe more firms are claiming to do impact investing without the intentionality and/or additionality. People have valid concerns about greenwashing and impact washing, but I believe we also need to worry about losing the concept of authenticity, accountability and why we truly believe in impact investing. Nowadays, it feels as if everyone is claiming to have an impact – how do we differentiate and truly validate those claims?

I believe our industry must push for verification of impact, measurement and management – which is a huge challenge due to lack of data. Despite the challenges, many of us are clamoring for more standardization and definitions. I believe mandatory disclosures, reporting and regulatory changes like the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosures Regulation (SFDR)and similar regulatory changes that are being considered by the SEC would help.

On the public equities and fixed income side of the investing – I’m paying close attention to challenges around data. We are asking, how can we best utilize the ESG data that we have and how can they be forward looking instead of backward looking? How do we truly integrate ESG factors in the investment process and measure and manage impact?

On the private investment funds, how do we truly define and assess whether the investments have concretely contributed to additional social and environment impacts? However, all these questions shouldn’t take away the focus and spotlight from the great work many impact investors are doing and the need to do more.

3. Innovation and Intersectionality

While the push for standardization is much needed, I also believe the field must continue innovating on better ESG, sustainable and impact investing solutions. I believe we need targeted solutions that focus on overlooked impact themes and especially those where capital flow is very minimal today.

I also believe we need more focus on intersectionality, especially with complex challenges that are often intertwined – climate change, health and wellness, mental health, wealth building, employee ownership, etc. I see lots of discussion around environmental/climate justice but our industry doesn’t have targeted investable solutions yet.

4. Active Ownership and Policy

Even with increasing numbers of people – especially younger generations – supporting action on climate, racial inequities, impact and ESG investing, there appears to be a huge partisan divide in this country, with one party seemingly holding back policy changes.

I believe we need sound government policies and a friendly policy environment to scale impact and ensure the progress we make will not be lost if future administrations change the rules.

I believe we need to amplify the voices of the communities that are directly impacted and engage with portfolio companies on various ESG topics and challenges and help guide them to be agents of impact and change.

5. Commitments and Authenticity

Many organizations have made public commitments around net zero7 and equity, diversity and inclusion in the last couple of years.8 What is missing is the details as to how these organizations plan to get there.9 This is further supported by our conversations with our approved managers as they analyze policies and data of the companies they invest in.

I believe we need a heavy lift on these issues now – we don’t have until 2050 or later to get to net zero based on our current trajectory. We also need to ensure that EDI is not an exercise in box checking. 

6. The Changing Role of Impact Investors

I believe our industry is facing some existential questions, including:

  • What does it really mean to be an impact investor?
  • Are we perpetuating extractive practices through what we currently call impact investments and various financial instruments we use?
  • What is the role of impact investors in providing catalytic and patient capital? Do we wait for government and quasi government entities to de-risk projects before we move in or do we become the de-riskers?

As we think about these important questions and have conversations about the answers, I believe our industry must continue doing the important work we are doing. We need to create innovative financial instruments to provide capital to emerging solutions to ensure individuals, communities and solutions who need access to capital the most have access to it.

Roraj Pradhananga is a Partner and the Senior Research Analyst at Veris Wealth Partners. He leads our Investment Research team, is a voting member of the Investment Committee and Chair of the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee.



The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only, represents only a summary of the topics discussed, and should not be construed as the provision of personalized investment advice, or an offer to sell or the solicitation of any offer to buy any securities. Rather, the contents including, without limitation, any forecasts and projections, simply reflect the opinions and views of the author. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of publication and are subject to change without notice.  There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed herein will come to pass. Additionally, this document contains information derived from third party sources. Although we believe these third-party sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from such third-party sources and take no responsibility therefore.

“Don’t Say Gay” Laws: Action Steps You Can Take

Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education bill,” dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, at the end of March 2022. Veris Wealth Partners has always supported and will always support LGBTQ+ rights and equality. We are disturbed by Florida’s adoption of this law and the news that lawmakers from at least 19 other states are now considering similar legislation. We are devastated to think of the impact this is already having on LGBTQ+ families and especially children.

Language in the Florida law prohibits “classroom instruction” and “discussion” about “sexual orientation or gender identity” for students in kindergarten through third grade “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” in Florida’s schools. Because the bill does not specify when such instruction would be considered “age-appropriate” we believe it is very likely that it will directly impact children in higher grades as well.

The law also prohibits personnel in Florida’s schools from withholding information from parents regarding a student’s “mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.” We believe this is widely thought to mean that school counsellors will have to inform parents if a student told them they were gay or trans – even if such disclosure could be harmful to the student. If a Florida parent feels that a school is in violation of any part of this law, the bill gives them the right to request an investigation by a magistrate or sue the school district at the school district’s expense. We believe the consequences of this legislation for LGBTQ+ children threatens their self-esteem and in some cases will be life-threatening.

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in response to this legislation, “banning discussion of LGBTQ people in school is an effort to silence and shame, to divide and disrespect, when all students should feel safe to learn about themselves and each other.”

Many experts agree that laws that target LGBTQ+ youth and families increase the dangers for kids that are already at higher risk of bullying and suicide than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. Research conducted by The Trevor Project found that LGBTQ kids who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in school were 23% less likely to report a suicide attempt.

How Businesses Are Responding to this Legislation

The Walt Disney Company announced a pause to political donations in Florida and vowed to help get the law repealed, but they are not the only corporation taking a stand.

Many business leaders are publicly speaking out against these kinds of laws. Over 240 corporations, including many that joined in response to the Florida law, have signed the Business Statement on Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation produced by Freedom for All Americans and Human Rights Campaign.  

This statement declares, “As business leaders dedicated to equal treatment, respect, and opportunity for all – as well as to improving the financial and investment climate across the country – we call for public leaders to abandon or oppose efforts to enact this type of discriminatory legislation and ensure fairness for all Americans.”

7 Action Steps You Can Take to Help LGBTQ+ Youth Now

As a Veris client, colleague, partner or collaborator, we also wished to share with you concrete actions that you can take in support of LGBTQ+ Youth. Many of us felt helpless watching this proposed legislation become law in Florida – but we can take action and we hope you will consider one or many of the following action steps!

1.Write your legislators.

If you live in Florida or any of the other states currently considering anti LGBTQ legislation call or write your elected officials to share your opinion. For help crafting your message, the ACLU offers a guide with suggestions for Writing Your Elected Officials.

2. Donate to the ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union works to protect the rights of LGBTQ people across the nation. To support their efforts you can make a donation to the ACLU. To make an impact at the local level, you can make a donation directly to the ACLU of Florida.

3. Support the Human Rights Campaign.

HRC has vowed to fight to repeal the Parental Rights in Education law in Florida. At the national level, HRC is working to pass The Equality Act, new legislation that would “provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.” 

4. Track anti LGBTQ legislation aimed at students.

A record number of curriculum censorship and hostile school climate bills have been introduced in 2022. You can track these laws and visit the Movement Advancement Project’s Policy Spotlight: Curriculum Censorship & Hostile School Climate Bills

5. Drive change through conversations about LGBTQ issues.

An Ally’s Guide to Terminology: Talking About LGBTQ People & Equality, produced by MAP & GLAAD, is a free resource to help allies better understand issues that impact LGBTQ issues and language so that you can talk about these matters in a way that will drive positive change.

6. Support The Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline.

The Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline are suicide prevention and crisis intervention organizations for LGBTQ youth and an advocate for LGBTQ youth mental health. These 501(c)(3) organization provides free counseling services and resources to help prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Project also works at the federal, state, and local level to address factors that increase the risk of suicide among LGBTQ youth. Donate here to The Trevor Project or here to Trans Lifeline.

7. Share Transgender, Non-Binary & Gender Fluid Reading Lists

The Veris team in San Francisco has children attending the Berkeley Unified School District. BUSD developed multiple reading lists, organized by grade level, represent books published in the last 5 years that are devoted to celebrating, representing, and affirming transgender, non-binary, and gender fluid identities and expression. Please feel free to share these lists with friends and family to continue to educate and build awareness, and to break down assumptions and combat intolerance. Transgender Reading Lists.

Veris recognizes these efforts as an element of broader movements that include criminalization of reproductive choices as well as restrictions on truthful education about race in American history (dubbed “Critical Race Theory”). As we approach the next election cycle we anticipate LGBTQ+ people, Reproductive Justice, and issues of Racial Justice will become divisive campaign issues. We recognize the humanity of and harm to people who find their lives and the safety of their existence to be listed as campaign slogans. We stand in support of these communities and we hope you will join us in taking one or many of these suggested steps.

To a better world, together,

The Veris Team


The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only. The contents including, without limitation, any forecasts and projections, simply reflect the opinions and views of the authors. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed herein will come to pass. Additionally, this document contains information derived from third party sources.  Although we believe these third-party sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information derived from such third-party sources and take no responsibility therefore.   

Veris Partner Spotlight: Roraj Pradhananga

Roraj Pradhananga, Senior Research Analyst at Veris Wealth Partners, was named a Veris Partner in December of 2021. Roraj leads our Investment Research team, is a voting member of the Investment Committee and Chair of the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee. We asked Roraj to answer a few questions about his life, career, and vision for the future of impact investing. 

Why impact? What led you to focus on impact investing?

Roraj Pradhananga: When I was in the fourth grade, I met the groundbreaking Black documentary filmmaker and author William Miles while he was on a visit to Nepal, where I was born and lived for many years. Miles gave me a copy of his book Black Stars in Orbit which is about the first Black American astronauts. He signed it, “Roraj, reach for the stars.” Those words have continued to reverberate throughout my life. As impact investors we must seek bold innovations – always reaching for the stars. But to be effective we must do so while keeping our feet firmly rooted in the realities of life here on earth.

I experienced firsthand the impact of the climate crisis on communities in Nepal, which is one of the most vulnerable countries to the negative impacts of climate change. I’ve also witnessed the positive impact that increased access to education and inflow of capital and investments to healthcare and other sectors can have in communities in Nepal.

Early in my career I spent many years in more traditional financial services roles in NY. I learned a lot, but the work left me feeling hollow. I wanted to give back to the community that had given me so much. After business school in Switzerland, I took the leap and joined an asset management firm, RobecoSAM, one of the pioneers in sustainable investing. I haven’t looked back. I was lucky to have been introduced to Veris, a 100% impact wealth management firm whose vision and mission is to create an equitable, just and sustainable world through financial markets, when I moved back to the U.S. in 2019.

How has your life experience shaped how you approach your work as an impact investor?

My experiences as an immigrant in the U.S. fueled my perseverance and my desire to change the world for the better. I started off with nothing, worked three jobs in high school and supported myself through college. I appreciate the opportunities that this country has provided me, but I am also keenly aware of the challenges of those facing obstacles to survive and thrive here – especially inequality and lack of opportunities and access in many low and moderate income (LMI) communities and communities of color. These life learnings drive my passion for impact investing.

I’ve also worked in various roles in many verticals of financial services – banking, insurance, asset management and wealth management at large-, mid-, small-sized companies and startups. My experiences as a former advisor/consultant to large corporate clients, an auditor, a banker as well as an sustainable investment analyst, have provided me insight into how sustainable companies should be run and also how they shouldn’t be run, which is critical in performing due diligence of investment opportunities for our clients.

Besides having very diverse work experiences, I’ve had the opportunity to live in four different countries and cultures and traveled to many more, which helps me bring a different perspective on how to analyze risks and opportunities. 

I have many interests – I’m curious and I like learning. All these experiences help me do what I do, understand the opportunities and challenges of the impact investing industry, help our clients invest in the right opportunities and also help the firm grow.

What is inspiring you most in your work right now?

Veris is a firm where all employees have a voice and everyone makes a genuine effort to walk the talk. I’m inspired by the collaboration and co-creation with my colleagues at Veris, our values-aligned clients and innovative investment partners who are constantly thinking about how to scale their impact and meaningfully contribute to the advancement of the impact investing industry. It is also important to highlight the decision of the Partner Group to remain majority employee-owned and independent, when many of our peers in the industry are being acquired by larger companies. This allows us to focus on our mission and vision, what’s important for clients and implement our theory of change, which is very inspiring.

I’m inspired by our firm’s leadership on equity, diversity, inclusion and devotion to creating the sense of belonging. Differences are embraced here – it isn’t just a pledge or commitment on paper. Many in our industry are talking about it but not doing much. Veris’ unwavering support of underrepresented emerging managers and underserved and underrepresented founders through them and underserved populations through Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) is very important. We are also constantly looking to partner with others in helping create investable and impactful financial products and ensuring they get off the ground.

Impact wealth management has a big role to ensure that we allocate capital to the investments that are best stewards of capital and in areas where capital is needed most. So I’m grateful that being part of Veris has given me the opportunity to walk this path with some of the pioneers of socially responsible investing and impact investing – pioneers like Patricia Farrar-Rivas, Michael Lent, Steve Fahrer, Anders Ferguson and David Hills, who founded Veris right before the financial crisis and never wavered.

What is your vision for the future of the impact investing industry?

In order to achieve an equitable net-zero future and a just transition in which global warming is limited to 1.5℃ and all humans treat each other with compassion and care and have equal access to opportunities, we need systems level change where we incorporate all stakeholders and community voices are taken into account.

The impact investing industry has been more collaborative than other sectors of the investment and financial service industry. However, there is still more that we can do to ensure we do not perpetuate inequities and exacerbate disparities. I would like to see more co-creation of solutions – where the impact investing industry truly comes together as a unit to tackle challenges head on and also brings along the traditional financial services on this journey. We will all need to work together to develop and catalyze intentional, innovative solutions that will concretely contribute to additional positive social and environmental impact outcomes. I also hope to see more collaborative efforts to tackle greenwashing and impact washing and ensure that the interrelationship of financial and impact outcomes we achieve can be appropriately measured and verified, which will provide further credibility and validity to impact investors.

I see opportunities for collaborative partnerships on various topics like climate crisis – reliance away from fossil fuel (the Ukraine invasion has shown why this is even more important today, not only the need to tackle climate change but also from a humanitarian and geopolitical stability perspective), the need for sustainable and regenerative farming practices, racial & gender inequity, and the lack of opportunities and wealth building in LMI communities and communities of color.

Everything we do is interconnected – the food we eat, the products we use and the waste we generate, the electricity we consume, the impact of our experience in the U.S. on the rest of the world. We have to remember that we only have one earth. I’m excited about being involved in developing innovations designed for intersectionality and the ways we might use new technologies to tackle challenges like environmental/climate justice that are complex and intertwined.

There are lots of conversations happening about conscious capitalism, stakeholder capitalism, regenerative finance and practices and double and triple bottom line. How do we ensure that these succeed? Let’s take a step back and focus on why we are in the impact investing space in the first place. It is to have a positive social and environmental impact. We sometimes get too hung up on the miniscule details while forgetting the crises at hand. We need to use our voices and capital to fight against injustice, eliminate bias and discrimination and work towards an equitable, just and sustainable world together.

Veris Wealth Partners Stands With Ukraine

Veris Wealth Partners stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We condemn Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine’s sovereign soil and our hearts grieve for the people who are now suffering incredible losses in this unjust war.

Cities and towns, including civilian neighborhoods, schools and hospitals, have been reduced to rubble across Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis continues to grow. As of this moment, the UN estimates that over two million Ukrainian refugees have fled their homeland. We have been inspired by the incredible bravery and resilience the Ukrainian people have shown in the face of this tragedy. We also applaud the Russian civilians who have risked their freedom by protesting against this war.

Our Firm’s Action Steps & Support for Humanitarian Aid Efforts

This is not only a time that calls for grieving – it is a time that calls for action. As a community of impact investors, we seek innovative ways to use our resources to help solve humanity’s greatest challenges and build a better world. Since this crisis began, Veris has been seeking action steps we can take to help make a positive impact and provide assistance to the people of Ukraine.

Divestment 

Veris began to assess our investments in Russia shortly after the invasion began. At the end of February we learned that our exposure to Russia in client portfolios – through approved mutual funds and separately managed accounts – was limited to four stocks for a total value of approximately $57,000, which represented around 0.003% of our overall AUM. We immediately engaged with our fund managers to divest from these stocks.

Since our move to divest from Russia, one manager has been able to sell one of the positions but market closures, a lack of trading partners and settlement concerns have prevented the sale and valuation of other positions. We are currently awaiting updates from our fund managers on the remaining positions.

We also asked one of the fund managers to reassess their ESG process to ensure better identification of risk factors and limit future exposure. Furthermore, we asked all our approved managers to analyze and assess portfolio companies that will be negatively impacted based on revenues generated from Russia or significantly rely on suppliers based in Russia and we are currently aware of very limited exposure.

We are going a step further and also engaging with our approved fund managers to divest from Russian stocks and bonds if they have exposure in funds that are not approved at Veris. A few of our approved fund managers have already suspended purchases of Russian securities and are actively working to further reduce their exposure to Russia in funds that are not approved at Veris and where we have no investments. Various index providers like MSCI, FTSE Russell, S&P Dow Jones Indices, Bloomberg, etc. have announced that they will remove Russian securities from their indexes and have determined that Russian securities are no longer investable.

Humanitarian Aid

Veris made a significant donation to UNICEF to support a humanitarian project focused on helping the civilian population that is under attack in eastern Ukraine. UNICEF’s emergency response teams and partners are ramping up efforts to deliver safe water to families in communities where water systems are barely functioning.

UNICEF is also providing health care, nutrition and education support where services are severely lacking or have shut down entirely. Children are particularly vulnerable in this crisis and UNICEF teams are working to protect Ukrainian children from violence, exploitation and abuse.

You can learn more about the project and donate to UNICEF’s efforts to protect children and families in Ukraine here.

How You Can Help

If you are looking for ways to support other aid efforts, there are a variety of organizations working to help Ukraine’s civilian population and refugees. Here are a few that are providing essential emergency services on the ground in the region.

  • The Ukrainian Red Cross Society is helping evacuate civilians, support firefighters and emergency personnel working to repair damage to civilian infrastructure.
  • Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is responding to the humanitarian crisis by reinforcing capacity for surgical care, emergency medicine, and mental health support for displaced people.
  • Razom is a Ukrainian non-profit focused on emergency medical care. Their current emergency response is focused on procuring critical medical supplies and delivering them where they are needed most in Ukraine.
  • The International Rescue Committee is working in Ukraine and Poland to support displaced families with medical supplies, essential items, and services.

All of us at Veris will continue to keep the Ukrainian people in our thoughts. We will continue to seek out meaningful actions we can take to be of service and we will keep you updated on our efforts.


The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only. While we have made suggestions as to various organizations that are providing support to the Ukranian people, we have not conducted a comprehensive review of such organizations and make no guarantees as to the claims that they make about their programs.

Veris Wealth Partners’ Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Task Force Case Study Published as Part of the JEDI Investing Toolkit

by Roraj Pradhananga, Partner – Senior Research Analyst

GenderSmart, a global field building initiative dedicated to unlocking the deployment of strategic, impactful gender-smart capital at scale, recently launched a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) toolkit. This JEDI toolkit is designed to encourage allocators, investors and intermediaries to understand the dimensions of JEDI investing and start applying gender and JEDI lenses throughout their investment processes.

The GenderSmart JEDI working group created the toolkit with the hope of improving investment decision-making, bringing on board new portfolio or fund managers, improving existing portfolios and enacting organization change for both people and processes. These goals are in line with Veris Wealth Partners’ vision, our firm’s emphasis on our Racial and Gender Equity theme, as well as the recommendations our own EDI taskforce – consisting of Patricia Farrar-Rivas, Jane Swan and myself –  have made over the last two years.

As part of the JEDI Toolkit, GenderSmart published a case study profiling the work of Veris Wealth Partners’ EDI Task Force. As Partner and Chair of our EDI Task Force, they asked me to describe our approach and I responded, “For Veris, EDI is not an exercise in box-checking. The financial services industry’s approach too often strives to increase diversity in management without sufficient consideration of embedded structural EDI obstacles. Black, Brown and Indigenous voices remain severely underrepresented across the financial services industry. To truly scale up impact and drive racial justice across the industry, a majority of firms will need to adopt an EDI approach that is similar or better than ours.”

How is Veris developing this EDI strategy and applying an EDI lens in investments?

Veris’ Investment Committee approved the EDI task force’s recommendations to significantly increase the number of EDI managers and managers with an explicit EDI lens in their investment process over the next five years. This requires us to be intentional in building our priority pipeline and due diligence and approval processes. We have approved funds with an EDI lens – including funds that focus on employee ownership and combine gender, race and community voices.

Veris’ EDI task force is mandated to assess existing investment practices, make recommendations on EDI goals and integrate EDI in our investment decisions. In 2020, we enhanced and amplified EDI elements throughout our due diligence questionnaire. This new data was instrumental in creating our EDI Manager framework and an Advancing Racial and Gender Equity (ARGE) assessment tool that classifies our approved managers in five different categories – from EDI watchlist (needs improvement) to EDI manager (best-in-class). The other categories are EDI aspirational, EDI firm and EDI investment process.

The ARGE tool measures diversity at all levels of the firm and assesses EDI lens of the investment process of the various fund managers. Pay equity, employee benefits, implementation of EDI policies, portfolio company engagement, shareholder proposals and disclosure of EDI proxy voting guidelines and records are among some of the reviewed data points.

Our next steps include engaging our fund managers, communicating best practices and helping them make improvements. We also performed a self-assessment using the ARGE tool and Veris is not yet an EDI manager. We are asking our non-EDI managers to join us on this transformation journey. Collecting data continues to be our biggest challenge. The success of our EDI approach is dependent on our managers’ willingness to engage, share data and implement changes themselves.

Veris Wealth Partners’ EDI Vision and Commitments

Veris is an impact wealth management firm with a vision to build a just, equitable and sustainable world and we believe equity (which is purposefully listed first), diversity and inclusion (EDI) must touch every aspect of our work. Veris strives to transform our firm and the industry in pursuit of this vision, such that along with this vision, mission and values, EDI is an integral part of our investment philosophy. Veris strongly believes EDI should be embedded firm-wide in every aspect: mission, vision, values, culture and policies (including hiring, retention, mentoring, promotion, and vendor/supplier selection). Our signatory commitments include Confluence Philanthropy’s Belonging Pledge, Due Diligence 2.0, Investor Statement of Solidarity & Call to Action to Address Systemic Racism and Women’s Empowerment Principles. Veris approaches commitments with great intention, evaluating internal changes required to ensure they are accountable.

Click here for a recording from the launch of the GenderSmart Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Investing Toolkit

Roraj Pradhananga is a Partner and Senior Research Analyst at Veris Wealth Partners. He leads the Investment Research team and is a voting member of the Investment Committee.


The information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is subject to change without notice.