Veris Interview Series: Dr. Ruth Shaber, Gender Lens & Impact Leader

Full Transcript 

Lori Choi, CFA: My name is Lori Choi. I’m a Partner and Senior Advisor at Veris, and I’m also a co-founder of WISE or Women Investing for a Sustainable Economy. We’re a community of over 3,000 women focused on advancing women’s leadership and sustainable and impact investing. 

I’ll be leading today’s interview with Dr. Ruth Shaber. Our agenda today will include introductions to Veris, for those of you who don’t know us, and Ruth’s background – covering her career in medicine and her journey to starting Tara Health Foundation. And her book The XX Edge, and what she’s been up to lately with the Diverse Investing Collective. We’ll also have time for some audience Q and A at the end. So look forward to hearing your questions.

I wanted to share a little bit about Veris for those of you who may not know us well. Veris is an independent, woman-led financial advisory firm. We help families and nonprofit organizations align their investments with their values, and we work with clients across the US. And our vision is to create an equitable, just, and sustainable world. And our mission is to use financial markets to direct capital to sustainable and regenerative endeavors.

Veris’s co-founders were pioneers, starting in the field of values-aligned investing in the nineties, and then came together in 2007. Inspired by their passion for social and environmental activism, they created one of the first impact focused financial advisory firms in the United States. And today we have deep investment capabilities across public and private markets and build client portfolios with up to a hundred percent focus on achieving impact in the context of our clients’ financial goals.

Veris launched our gender lens investing research in 2012, which sparked a series of thought pieces and collaborations with other gender lens investing catalysts to track asset growth in the industry and more. Big thanks to Veris’ Gender Lens Investing team past and present, especially Alison Pyott and two who have retired from the firm – Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile and Patricia Farrar-Rivas, our founding CEO.

Veris works on behalf of clients who invest in multiple impact themes with an intersectional approach, because we know that many of these issues are related. And several years ago we expanded our core impact investment theme of gender lens investing to include racial and gender equity, which I think we’ll talk about with Ruth as well in her journey. Veris’ other core impact themes include climate solutions and the environment, community wealth building, sustainable and regenerative agriculture. And these are just some of the most common themes our clients prioritize. But we really work individually with each client to customize based on their own priorities.

Today’s conversation is one we’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and we are thrilled to lift up the work of one of the impact investing industry’s leading diverse investing catalysts in Ruth. 

I first saw Ruth presenting about Tara Health Foundation in New York City years ago, and remember thinking to myself how unique of a perspective that she brought, having been a successful OB GYN and then senior executive at Kaiser Permanente to then and now, speaking to financial professionals and investors alike. She’s on the leading edge of funding evidence informed programs through Tara Health Foundation to promote women’s wellbeing and opportunities. And she’s done this on both the grant making side and the investing side, which has been really wonderful to learn about. 

She’s also the co-founder and board chair of Rhia Ventures, a collective of foundations and investors committed to bringing new types of capital to the reproductive health field. And, alongside co-author Patience Marime-Ball, she recently published the book The XX Edge, Unlocking Higher Returns and Lower Risk which serves as the basis for her new initiative, the Diverse Investing Collective, that aims to increase the assets managed by gender diverse and racially diverse teams to 33% by 2033. Welcome, Ruth. Thank you so much for being here.

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Thank you, Lori, and thank you for that lovely introduction. I want to thank you and Veris for all the work you do. You have also been tremendously important in the field, and have been breaking new ground for quite a while, so very grateful for all that you do.

Lori Choi, CFA: Thank you so much. Jumping in on your background in medicine – how did your work in obstetrics and gynecology lead you to your current work with Tara Health Foundation?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: There is a through line, actually. I had a wonderful career in medicine as an obstetrician gynecologist with a special interest in reproductive health. But I also had a lot of executive positions at Kaiser Permanente, and my most recent job there was overseeing the national population care programs. Which means that my responsibility was translating evidence and medical research into actual practice. So this idea of evidence-based medicine and designing systems, systems engineering and performance improvement. And when I left Kaiser, I was determined to use all of these principles in my new career in philanthropy and impact investing. 

Among the other important things I learned in my career in medicine, is that who controls capital matters and in women’s health there’s been such an absence of funding and prioritization of women’s health innovation that it really is a desert for innovation, and whether it’s trying to get a new grant or lobbying your senior executives for funding for some new proposal. It was clear that if you don’t have the budget you can’t get anything done.

And then my other commitment is to women’s health, and really understanding how central women are not just to their to their own wellbeing and their own families, but that when women thrive, and particularly when women can control the size of their families, that their immediate communities and larger communities also thrive, and how vital reproductive health is to overall societal impact.

Lori Choi, CFA: I know we’re gonna touch on some of the specific studies and research, but in the book you mentioned some examples that were really poignant – like the crash test dummies or the clinical trials that didn’t include women. Could you tell us a couple of these stories?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Sure. To follow up on that theme about who controls capital matters, one of the stories that comes out in the book is that women’s health has been dramatically underfunded for decades. And it shows up in ways that, for instance, women weren’t included in clinical trials until really the nineties even, then there was very little innovation. We’re still using the same birth control methods now that were invented in the 1960s. It wasn’t until Bernadine Healy became the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the seventies that she mandated that all clinical trials had to include women. We moved towards the norm of – you couldn’t assume that women’s bodies behave the same way as men’s bodies, and it was because she controlled a budget of $7 billion dollars that she was able to to make that kind of transition in medicine. 

The crash test dummies example is another great one, where for most of the car safety innovations that we all rely on, like seat belts and head restraints and airbags, they were based on testing that was done with male modeled crash test dummies. And we all know that women have different bodies, and their center of gravity is different. The tests that were done showed what was safe for a male crash test dummy wasn’t necessarily safe for a female crash test dummy. So that’s another example. And the reason why we have that button in our car is to turn off the airbag on our passenger seat is because it’s dangerous for shorter people who might be sitting in that passenger seat, and it’s often a woman. So those are the kinds of problems that we’ve generated because we haven’t taken gender into consideration when we develop new products.

Lori Choi, CFA: Wow! Fascinating. And just by taking gender into consideration, it really is helping all people (by protecting) shorter people, children, and others. So yeah, I love that with those insights that you brought out. Thank you. So how have you translated that into your approach with Tara Health foundation? And what is your vision for the future?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: We started Tara Health Foundation in 2014. And what makes it a little bit different from most family foundations in the United States is that it’s 100% mission aligned, which means, in addition to our grant making, which is largely based on women and girls, we also have a very strong racial equity focus. We think about every single asset class. So we have a strategy in the private markets and debt and public markets. And so we’re thinking about all of the assets of the foundation, not just our grant making and how we can have a social impact.

We also are interested in a financial impact. So while we have a hundred percent mission aligned portfolio, we expect market rate returns and we’re seeing market rate returns. We often use our grant money to help build the field of impact investing. So whether it’s creating new tools, or you mentioned Rhia Ventures in my introduction, we will use grant money to help build nonprofit infrastructure that allows us then, to invest better.

Lori Choi, CFA: I loved how on your website, you’re so transparent with your grantees and your investments. And you’ve certainly been a catalyst to many groups in our industry. How did that lead you and Patience Marime-Ball to writing The XX Edge and what impact do you hope the book will achieve?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Patience and I started working together in 2019, and, believe me, neither one of us expected to ever write a book. It certainly wasn’t on my radar screen, but a lot of the work that we did was running workshops and speaking quite a bit about gender focused finance, and we noticed over and over again that we were almost always speaking to the choir and if there were mainstream investors in the audience or men in the audience. They didn’t really understand why gender finance was important to them.

And we noticed it over and over again, and we also noticed that the women who were running funds or entrepreneurs or were deep in the gender finance space. Were so frustrated that they in fact, were often competing with each other for relatively small capital allocations, or carve-outs from some of the big institutional investors, and we recognized that we needed to do what we called, “jump the fence”, and we needed to tell the story of gender finance to mainstream investors, and particularly frankly to white men who were assuming that it didn’t have anything to do with them. And, just like you said Lori, when you innovate and when you create products that are focused on women, you actually improve outcomes for everybody. 

And the other thing that drove our decision to write the book was that we were noticing in our own portfolios, both in my case at Tara Health Foundation, and for Patience in her experiences in the finance industry, when you have a gender focus on your portfolio, it tends to outperform the market. And it was clear at Tara Health Foundation that we were outperforming the market, not in spite of having a hundred percent gender focus, but because we had a hundred percent gender focus. And that’s what really drove us to start doing the research and trying to understand…Was this just our own experience, or was it something that played out across the industry?

Lori Choi, CFA: Before this call, we talked about how performance in the short term in public equity strategies, whether gender, focused or not, are not immune to short term fluctuations, like the ‘magnificent seven’ – or the ‘magnificent five’ now that Tesla and Apple haven’t done as well. Environmental strategies certainly have had their challenges and volatility in the last 40 few years, but I love that you’ve seen positive outperformance. And even in the research specifically that you found I’d love to talk about that, too, because it’s not just one research study. It’s so many that you were able to find and identify. And I’d love to hear a little bit more of that.

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Sure. As a medical scientist and somebody who really built my career on evidence based medicine and evidence based practice, I think what scared me the most about starting to write this book is that we would be perceived as cherry picking – that we’d only pick the best studies, that we wouldn’t really tell the whole story. And I’ll be honest that that is not the case that we saw consistency across all asset classes. Sometimes there would be some comparisons that would be neutral. That would show that when men and women, or gender diverse teams and all male teams performed equally as well, but almost always when research had been done that compared when women are at the finance table or not at the finance table, that when women were there there was better – not just financial performance – but also better social impact as well. 

I can give you some examples. It’s interesting because a lot of the history of gender finance really started with microfinance. I’m sure all of your listeners know that when you lend women particularly small, you know, subsistence farmers or people who have really very little wealth. To begin with, women tend to use the money more prudently. They’ll invest in their family if they make a profit and it really tends to benefit a community at large. They’ll send their kids to school (for example). I think that evidence is really sound. But as you move away from microfinance into things like women who are small business borrowers, they are much less likely to default on a loan. They’re much more likely to pay their debts back. And they’re much more likely to be loyal to their banks. Women who are entrepreneurs and starting companies, if a new company had a female founder, those companies were 63% more likely to outperform all male teams over a 10 year period.

In general, when there are teams that have both men and women in senior leadership, they’re 21% more likely to see our performance relative to their peers that don’t have gender diversity. Female CFOs deliver a 6% increase in profits and an 8% stock bump compared to previous performance with male predecessors. When women run hedge funds they tend to outperform by a 6% margin. We found it over and over again. 

A lot of people are probably familiar with women on boards, and how that strengthens companies. So it was extremely consistent. And the other thing we found is that women, when they’re in financial leadership positions, tend to bring more social impact with them. It may not be their first priority, but, for instance, women who are on senior leadership teams of companies are more likely to consider environmental impact or more likely to consider what are the healthcare benefits that we’re providing for our employees. Those sorts of things equate to what we see in microfinance, that when women have access to capital, they’re more likely to support their families in their communities leading to both financial and social impact. What we learned in our research is a really interesting and consistent rationale for why gender would outperform. What we found is that women tend to be more collaborative. Women tend to take the long view, so they’re less likely to sacrifice short-term outcomes for the long term, and they look to the long-term outcomes instead.

And interestingly, it’s often said that women don’t take risks, and it’s actually not true. Women do take risks, but they take risks in different ways, and I think one of the best ways to understand this is in the gambling literature, and that we know that men are much more likely to be influenced by social pressure to take chances, whether it’s around the craps table or in a boardroom.

And if you think about what it might look like if there’s all men sitting around a table trying to decide if they’re gonna acquire a new company or take some major business risk. And the type of social pressure really kind of looks the same as what you might see around a craps table in Vegas. Women tend to take a more measured view of risk taking. They tend to consider more options, and they tend to be much less influenced by social pressure, to take chances.

And the last thing that we uncovered in our research was this idea of proximity to problems. And this is a really important thing which we’ve really brought into a lot of the work that we’re doing now at Tara Health Foundation, that one of the reasons why women make good financial decision makers is because they tend to be closer to the problems that we’re trying to solve. 

Whether it’s innovation in the climate space, or the care economy, or education, or healthcare, women tend to be the ones who are the most impacted by those problems, and they also tend to be the frontline workers. So, for instance, in the healthcare industry, 85% of the healthcare workforce is female, 85% of the healthcare decisions are made by women, whether it’s for themselves or for their family. In education, we know that women tend to be the frontline workers and teachers. So over and over again, we see that women are the ones who are in the field, and actually are much more likely to bring innovative solutions to the table. And it’s not that men aren’t also capable of having innovative solutions and seeing the impact of these sorts of problems. But when women aren’t there we really miss out on creativity and real world experience that’s extremely relevant if we’re going to be innovative and find disruptive new ways of doing business.

Lori Choi, CFA: Wow! There is so much packed in there. I love it. And so what do you think is the reason why it’s still a well kept secret. How can we shift that and make it more of a well known understanding that it’s good investing, you know, just like impact investing is now good investing, you know, thinking about non-financial factors that are material to a company’s bottom line. Just makes good business sense. What do you think?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Well, I’m an observer of the finance industry, and you’ve been deep in it for a long time, so you certainly know as well as I do that there’s biases that the status quo, you know, folks who’ve had the same financial advisor or manager for decades in their family. It’s perceived that to change the way you’re making your financial decisions is a risk.

And so you know, one of our hopes is that this book is going to help to change that paradigm and change and overcome the bias that we all have. We all have biases. 

Patience loves to tell the story of two equally experienced, equally successful women entrepreneurs who want to start a venture fund. And they’re pitching their idea to investors, let’s say, to an all male team of investors. And they might say to the man who’s pitching. Well, he’s been incredibly successful. He knows what he’s doing. Yeah, let’s give him the money. But to the woman they might say, well, she’s already made a lot of money. Why, why does she need more? And this idea of women as beneficiaries of capital rather than the agents of capital deployment, I think, is really ingrained in our culture and our biases.

Lori Choi, CFA: Oh, interesting! Thank you for sharing that. And so is there anything else that you would like to highlight? What you hope people will take away from The XX Edge, and certainly we hope people will read it and get it if they don’t have it already. Because there are so many research studies that you just mentioned that are great as a reference tool in speaking with other investors and making these decisions for their teams, etc. 

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Well, a couple of things. First of all, I want to make it clear that this isn’t meant to be a replacement strategy. We’re not trying to switch out all the chairs that men currently occupy to put women in. And one of the other things that we haven’t discussed is how over 85% of capital allocation decisions in the current finance industry are made by white men, whether you look at venture capital, or entrepreneurs, or CEOs of fortune 500 companies, there’s a huge underrepresentation of both women and people of color, and if you’re only taking the top 5% of any particular demographic, then you’re leaving 45% of above average talent out of the room right? One thing we just wanna make clear is that this is about making the table bigger. It’s not about switching out the chairs – it’s about pulling up more chairs. Diversity in asset allocation is an incredibly important driver of financial performance. And it’s not just about gender diversity. It’s about all types of diversity. When everybody sitting around the table looks exactly the same you get groupthink, and you can’t see around the corners or (you have) gaps in your information.

So that’s one thing. And we know that when women enter the workforce without necessarily decreasing the number of men in the workforce that the economy grows. So this is about more pie for everybody. It’s not about a zero sum game. In fact, for a long time we were gonna call the book “More Pie” and we think The XX Edge is a much better title.

The other thing that I want to make sure we talk about is the importance of lived experience as a way of making us better investors. 

In my mother’s generation, she was a very successful economist and consultant, but she never brought her lived experience into her business rooms. She would never talk about her children or the challenges of having a two career family, or if one of her children had a soccer game or a ballet recital. Believe me, she never told anybody, and she certainly didn’t leave work to go, and it was assumed that in order for a woman to be successful, she had to behave more like a man. 

I think what’s really important to bring out, and what we learned in our research, is that it’s actually our lived experience – what we went through with COVID, what we need to balance, or the fact that we can’t get good healthcare for our families, or we’re the sandwich generation, and we’re trying to juggle our parents and our children, and there’s just no good childcare, or whatever it is – those factors actually enhance our ability to perform as financial decision makers. It makes us better investors, and that I think, is a real paradigm shift. It certainly was for me.

Lori Choi, CFA: That’s great. At Veris we are very aligned – it is part of our investment philosophy that we diversify who is investing the capital on behalf of our clients, too. Because, as you say, lived experience does matter. But that’s a perfect segue into talking about how your work in the book kind of led you to The Diverse Investing Collective. And if you have a couple of studies to share around the business case for gender and racial diversity, that would be great.

Dr. Ruth Shaber: When we were writing the book, we focused on gender diversity because that’s where most of the research has been. It’s a lot easier when you’re studying outcomes to be able to identify people’s gender and I also wanna make it clear that gender, of course, is not binary, but in most of the research studies people would be categorized as either being a man or a woman. And so that’s what this evidence is based on. 

But the same rationale for why gender diversity outperforms is actually now coming out more and more with other types of cognitive diversity and racial diversity. Some of the most interesting studies and really compelling work has come out since we published the book. One was from Vanguard.¹ You normally think of Vanguard as having passive funds, but they do have a relatively small portfolio of actively managed funds that they offer to some of their clients. They studied 2,600 US active equity funds between 2008 and 2021, and categorized the portfolio managers into four different categories: all male teams, all women teams, mixed gender teams that were primarily men, and mixed gender teams that were primarily women. And then they looked at the performance of those funds over that time period, and they found that the strongest performance came from the mixed gender funds that primarily had more women. Second performance on strength was with mixed gender more men, then all female, then all male.

Now there weren’t that many, all female teams. So the statistical strength of the study is a little bit not as strong as you’d want it to be, but what they found is that if all you did in your portfolio was prioritize mixed gender, primarily female fund managers in your portfolio you would outperform the market by 47 basis points.

In 2023 a similar analysis by WTW also found that gender diversity outperforms by about 45 basis points.² Harvard Business Review took the next step and looked at diversity more broadly and venture capital, and showed that venture capital teams that were all homogeneous, underperformed by as much as 30%.³ In 2020, WTW looked across a number of different asset classes, and also found that ethnic diversity outperformed.⁴ 

So we’re getting more and more studies that are strengthening this evidence around diversity more in general. But, like I said, 85% of capital is allocated by white men. And so it just doesn’t make sense. And it’s a really a huge missed opportunity for investors.

Our decision to focus on portfolio managers was really based on this, you know, the Vanguard and WTW Studies because we feel as if the portfolio managers are really a black box. You know, it’s really hard to know who’s actually managing your money and who is actually making the asset allocation decisions- which companies to invest in, which companies to engage with and over what issues affect all of us. It’s just like healthcare, right? I mean, we all care about the economy. We all care about what products get developed and which companies get supported. So that was what really put the wind in our sales to start the Diverse Investing Collective.

Lori Choi, CFA: That’s great. Wow! And so you’ve actually prepared a video. I wonder if you would set it up or frame it for us briefly. 

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Well, it took me a couple of minutes just now to explain why we cared about portfolio managers. And so we really wanted to have a powerful cartoon that would tell the story.

Diverse Investing Collective Video Narration: “Do you know what your money is doing while you sleep, whether you have a 401 k., or pension, a college savings account, or oversee an endowment? Your investment money is hard at work, even when you’re not, and while some of us have begun looking into how our investments impact the world, very few of us have dug into who is managing our money. We just want it to keep growing, for when we need it. But if we care about making our world a better place and making good returns so we can retire or grow an endowment for future investments, we need to understand who is pulling the levers in the investment machine and how their decisions affect financial and real world outcomes.

While investors like you actually own the money they invest, fund managers and asset management firms are the ones making most of the day-to-day decisions about where to put those assets. This gives them immense power to decide which companies get funded and which ones don’t, as well as strong influence over how companies approach important societal issues like environmental impact and labor practices. The issue is that most of today’s portfolio managers pretty much look the same – male and white.

Research shows that when everyone on the team is the same, it can lead to group, think, and worse decision-making, while teams with a more diverse mix of genders, races, and perspectives can lead to better investment performance.

Fund managers with more diverse backgrounds, such as women and people of color, will see challenges and opportunities missed by a group who has not walked in their shoes, allowing great ideas to lead wherever they might originate.

Your investment money is always at work, but it can be even more productive for you and our world by adding more diversity behind the controls. To learn how you can take action to change the face of finance, increasing financial and social returns. Visit www.diverseinvestingcollective com.”

Lori Choi, CFA: I love that video, and it makes it really simple to understand why a diverse team can see different challenges and opportunities because of their perspectives and their lived experience. So that’s great. The collective has set a goal of 33% of AUM in the US managed by women and people of color. Why, 33%?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Well, first of all, I want to say that we’re not the first people to be working on this. Many, many people have been working for decades to try and diversify the finance industry. A lot of institutional investors and family offices and individuals have been focused on, for instance, diverse owned funds, particularly in the private markets. 

There has been really important work that’s been done to try and improve culture in the big firms to help with retention and talent support and all the things. And so I don’t want to make it sound like we’re the first ones who are trying to tackle this problem. 

But there’s a couple things that we’re trying to add to what’s come before us. One is that this 33% is that we know there’s really great evidence that shows when there’s at least 33% of any particular type of diversity in the room, that voice is more powerful, and we know certainly most of the evidence about that comes from from women, that if there’s only one woman at the table, chances are they’re not going to be heard, but if there’s three women at the table they’re gonna have a voice. And that’s certainly true with people of color or any type of diversity.

But we’re talking about diverse teams. It’s that we want to see the promotion of diverse teams. So we’re not necessarily advocating for all women teams, either, or all people of color teams. We think that the magic happens when teams are diverse.

The other thing that we’re trying to add to the conversation is making the denominator AUM. We’re trying to solve for the problem that, while more women and more people of color are coming into the industry, they tend to be managing relatively small funds and tend to be in the private markets, and in some ways they’re competing against each other. 

What we think is really the more genuine measure of power and progress is by talking about (the question of) how much money are they managing? Not just the number of people in the industry. So by saying, our goal is that 33% of assets will be managed by teams that are both gender diverse and racially diverse, and our goal is to do that by 2033.

Lori Choi, CFA: And where are we today? Do you have that number, by chance?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: We’re about to launch our dashboard, which will be publicly available, and in the funds that we’ve been able to examine, it’s about 16%.

And it’s important when I say, the funds that we’ve been able to examine, this is information that’s not publicly available, and that’s one of the first problems we need to solve is to make it transparently available.

If you are an asset owner, particularly if you’re an institutional investor, and you have consultants or other teams around you, you can query a fund or firm and find out who are actually the portfolio managers and do an assessment about whether the diversity that you’re looking for is there. But it’s not available to most investors. It’s not something that you can just go to Blackrock or Fidelity’s website and find out who’s managing my money. Given how strategically important it is to the strength of your portfolio, we believe that it needs to be publicly available and that it should be available to everybody. So our first goal is around transparency.

Lori Choi, CFA: And that leads us to your call to action. How can everyone help out? 

Dr. Ruth Shaber: When we started out with this initiative, we talked to a lot of the biggest firms and banks and asked them, you know. Look at this data. It’s so overwhelming, you know. Why aren’t you recruiting more women and more people of color as portfolio managers and first, they’d say, well, there aren’t any out there – which we know isn’t true. Or well, we can’t figure out why they always leave. We hire them, and then they leave. And you know, maybe there’s a problem with their culture, what they’re doing to try and retain the best talent. But they also told us we’re not actually going to change until our clients demand it.

That is true in any industry. Right? You couldn’t get organic food until there was enough demand for organic food, and then the grocery stores had to supply it. In the same way. We believe that when there’s enough of a demand for transparency and diversity of fund managers that the firms will have to supply it, and that means that they’re going to have to change their culture in order to recruit, retain, and promote the best talent. Now, maybe that’s naive. 

Obviously, it’s more complex than that. But we do think that the first step is transparency and measurement. And so what we’re doing is recruiting from the demand side of the equation. High net worth individuals, foundations, universities, pension funds and other institutional investors to raise awareness about how important this issue is, and to help them to give them the tools to demand that transparency from the funds that they’re investing in.

And we have an open letter calling for transparency.  

We already have over $60 billion in AUM (assets under management represented) of signers to this letter. And we’re focusing on the 20 largest funds. And we’re calling out those that are transparent and do publish the demographics of their fund teams and those that don’t. And so our first step is to shine a light on who is providing this information and who is not.

We’re also very shortly going to be standing up a dashboard which will allow folks to be able to track progress. And we’re working with a PR team to start telling stories (that illustrate) the need for this work, but also the individual organizations and institutions that have been looking at the diversity of their fund teams and the fact that they’re not losing money. This is not a concessionary strategy at all. In fact, it’s a way of strengthening your portfolio.

So that’s our strategy. And our call to action is, if you are interested in this, take a look at our website, take a look at the transparency letter, and even if you don’t want to sign the letter, start paying attention to who’s managing your money. Ask your advisors. This is information that you deserve to know. So just ask for it. And then you can make your decisions about whether you want to stick with funds that have homogeneous teams or not. 

If they do have a homogeneous team, and you’re a big enough institution where you can say, ‘this isn’t good. I think that you need to bring in more women, and people of color. If you want my business next year, I’d like to see some change.’ So this is an engagement opportunity.

Lori Choi, CFA: Thank you so much for that, and we’re not done yet. We do have some audience Q and A. One question that we got in advance was ‘What has been the most difficult part of getting stakeholders to commit to this part of gender and equity investing?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Well, there’s certainly the bias, and there’s the fear of underperformance. And you know there’s no question that right now there’s a push back around ESG in general and diversity in particular. You’d have to be living under a rock to not feel that, and there are some, particular state pension funds, or university endowments now that feel that while they might enthusiastically believe that this is the right thing to do, aren’t able to be public about it.

I understand that, even if they’re actually changing the way they invest, they’re not able to talk about it. But those of us who can talk about it because we’re individuals, we’re running foundations that have the luxury of being able to de-risk this work for other people, we have an obligation to talk about it. It’s the right thing to do, not only for the strength of our portfolios, but also because these are great jobs that have been largely hoarded by white men, and there’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be loud and and and strong about how important this is, not just for our own financial wellbeing, but also for our communities and for the job creation and all the social impact.

Lori Choi, CFA: Thank you for that. That leads to another question. ‘Are there any policy levers that you think would help stimulate investment in gender diverse or racially diverse businesses?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: I think there are. I’m not a policy expert. I actively avoid any kind of policy levers, because I find that it’s frustrating and those of you out there who are interested in this, I applaud you, and I’m grateful. But ultimately, given how material this information is to our investments, it needs to be mandated that this information is transparent and publicly available.

You know in my history, in healthcare, when I started out in the nineties, hospitals and insurance companies and physician groups didn’t have to report anything on performance. And, in fact, when there was pressure around how many people died on the operating room table? Or how often do your patients that are discharged end up back in the emergency room the following week? Things that any consumer deserves to be able to know about, hospitals would say, oh, that’s you know that’s private information. I don’t have to report on that. But the industry has evolved so much in 30 years, largely due to consumer pressure, government pressure, insurance pressure, employers pressure – those are the ones who are the biggest clients for healthcare who’ve demanded this kind of transparency. But now, not only are there thousands of publicly reported measures in healthcare, but healthcare organizations themselves have to pay for that reporting so they can’t resist it anymore. And they have to actually pay for the inspectors to come in and collect the data so that they can provide those reports to the public. So I’m optimistic that in finance this drumbeat of evidence is so loud and strong that eventually governments and consumers will demand it.

Lori Choi, CFA: And we’re seeing some movement with the SEC around climate disclosures. Maybe this is on the way. 

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Yes, hopefully this is next.

Lori Choi, CFA: So we’ve got another question, ‘What is your primary form of investment vehicle for investor capital? Is it a lending promissory note? If so, what are your expected repayment terms? 3 or 5 years? And are these investments open to non-institutional investors?’

Dr. Ruth Shaber: I’m not sure I completely understand the question. If you’re asking me about Tara Health Foundation’s portfolio, we have a different strategy in every asset class. So in the private markets, for instance, we have several direct investments in early stage companies, but the bulk of our private allocation is through Rhia Ventures and RH Capital, which is a venture fund that focuses on women’s health in general and reproductive health in particular.

We also do quite a bit of debt to women’s health clinics. They tend to be below market debt. But we also have started a debt program to new fund managers. Recognizing that getting operating capital to get their funds off the ground is difficult and often you know just having that working capital to get them over to where they have sufficient fees is really important, and these types of notes tend to be either at market rate or slightly below market. And then most of our capital is in the public markets – mutual funds and other SMAs.

Lori Choi, CFA: We’ve got one more, from Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile, she’s saying, ‘wonderful to see you. Thank you for your work! Please share investing opportunities you have found that address gender based violence.

Dr. Ruth Shaber: I’m sorry, Luisamaria, I don’t really have those in my back pocket to share with you. I know that Criterion has done quite a bit of work on a strategy around investing to prevent gender based violence and Futures without Violence does quite a bit of work there. I can’t tell you a fund. It’s an important field though, and I wish I could answer that for you.

Lori Choi, CFA: We do have one more here, ‘How do you think about the fact that women fund managers often get bucketed into the diversity pot of funds which are inherently a small sleeve amongst much larger allocations? What advice would you give to women fund managers who face these issues when fundraising, especially those who are emerging managers and just getting started?’

Dr. Ruth Shaber: Give them the book! (The XX Edge) That’s exactly why we wrote this book. You’re describing exactly the catch-22, the double standard with these carve-outs. Some investors (think) well, I’ll give it a try, but it’s not going to be my main strategy. I feel your pain.

Lori Choi, CFA: I’m just so grateful for this conversation today, Ruth, and for all the insights you’ve shared, and thank you to folks who attended, and for your questions. We really appreciate it. We hope that everyone will take these action steps to heart. So please click on the transparency letter if you can fill it out. Great is it, is it for anyone? Did you say, Ruth?

Dr. Ruth Shaber: It’s for investors, for asset owners and for advisors who are in the position to influence which funds they are going to invest in.

Lori Choi, CFA: Awesome. Check out Tara Health Foundation’s website. So many resources – about the Diverse Investing Collective as well. Thank you so much again, everyone, and we will see you next time.

The Veris Interview Series Continues

Our next Veris Interview will be with Timothy Smith, Senior Policy Advisor at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).  You are invited to Join Veris on Zoom – Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at 8 am Pacific / 11 am Eastern to hear about the history of shareholder engagement and activism, why it matters, engagement versus divestment, and the future of shareholder activism in the face of ESG attacks.

Register here.

About Lori Choi and Ruth Shaber

Lori Choi is a Partner, Senior Advisor, and CFA® Charterholder at Veris Wealth Partners and she also serves on the Veris Board of Managers. With over seventeen years of experience in wealth management and financial services, Lori is passionate about helping individuals, families, and foundations have a positive social and environmental impact with their wealth. Read her full bio

Ruth Shaber, MD, is a changemaker and innovator, moving from a robust career as an OBGYN and senior executive at Kaiser Permanente to empowering women across finance and healthcare. Currently, she is the founder and president of Tara Health Foundation, a philanthropic investment group that uses evidence-informed programs to promote women’s well-being and opportunities. She is also the co-founder and board chair of Rhia Ventures, a collective of foundations and investors committed to bringing new types of capital to the reproductive health field. Alongside co-author Patience-Marime Ball, she recently published The XX Edge: Unlocking Higher Returns and Lower Risk, which serves as the basis for her new initiative — The Diverse Investing Collective — which aims to increase the assets managed by gender-diverse and racially-diverse teams to 33 percent by 2033.


The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only, represents only a summary of 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 speakers.  All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the speakers 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. Certain case studies, research studies, and performance results presented herein are illustrative and designed to support the investment theses or opinions of the speakers and should not be construed as representing the entirety of all pertinent experiences or relevant market data, some of which may support a different opinion or thesis.

Past performance is not indicative of or a guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of all amounts invested.

Six Trends in Sustainable, ESG, and Impact Investing

Despite politicization and anti-ESG and anti-DEI rhetoric, I believe investor interest in sustainable, socially responsible, and impact investment is on the rise.¹ The ESG and impact investing industry continues on a path to the mainstream, as I predicted in my last article on impact investing trends in 2022.

I still believe now, as I did then, that ESG and DEI mitigate risk and help identify long-term investment opportunities and returns. A growing number of investors seem to share that belief.

From what I am seeing, more and more asset owners are asking advisory firms how they can align 100% of their assets with their values. According to a recent poll conducted by Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing and Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, 77% of individual investors globally are interested in investing in companies and funds that aim to achieve market-rate financial returns while also considering positive social and/or environmental impact and 54% say they anticipate increasing allocation to sustainable investments in the next year.² 

Where will these trends lead? Here are six topics that I believe will shape the sustainable and impact investing industry in 2024 and beyond.

Regulatory Changes

Topics like climate and socio-economic challenges will be on the ballot in 2024 as ~49% of the global population – including voters from over 64 countries – head to the polls.³ The outcomes of these elections will help determine the policies that will either be favorable or unfavorable to sustainable investing.

We have already seen policy tailwinds in the past two years. The US SEC adopted the Climate Disclosure bill on March 6, 2024, which requires standardized disclosures and assurance requirements on material Scope 1 and 2 emissions as well as climate related risks and risk management that can have significant impact on business strategy, operations and financial outcomes, which will help investors in decision making. 

The SEC’s Climate Disclosure bill doesn’t require Scope 3 emissions reporting and deviates from the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and California’s climate disclosure bills: SB-253 (Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act) and SB-261 (Greenhouse gasses: climate-related financial risk). However, the EU’s CSRD requires disclosures on double materiality (both financial and impact) that cover various environmental, social and governance topics including Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and this will apply to over 50,000 public and private companies including many US companies. I believe all these, including the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation’s disclosure recommendations, will further enhance standardized disclosures and will help facilitate an apples-to-apples comparison of companies. However, we need convergence and harmonization of these various requirements so that companies are clear on reporting requirements globally.

To use ESG and DEI or not to use ESG and DEI

Election year brings heightened focus on ESG and DEI and many large investment firms have stopped using these two terminologies or are walking back their climate and DEI commitments.⁵ But some corporations are still indicating why ESG and DEI are important to them, and consumer demand is clear on sustainable products from sustainable companies. Corporates are continuing with their efforts in identifying material ESG factors and making changes to their policies, practices and operations to improve their financial outcomes. In a survey conducted by KPMG in early 2024, a significant number of CEOs named “executing ESG initiatives” as their top operational priority over the next year and a majority of those executives said that they expect to see significant returns from their investments in sustainability within the next three to five years.

The SEC adopted the Names Rule in 2022 which requires funds that use ESG in the name to invest at least 80% of the value of its assets in alignment with ESG factors. There have been similar regulations in Europe which have helped asset allocators identify sustainable funds that are intentional and authentic and improved the rigor of funds that invest in sustainable companies. The silver lining is that this helps funds and managers that are authentic and intentional about ESG and DEI stand out and continue to innovate. At Veris, we continue to use these terminologies.

Intersectionality of Climate, Racial & Gender Equity, and Economic Justice

Climate solutions and getting to net zero emissions continues to be an important topic for many impact investors on the back of one of the hottest years on record along with higher frequency and severity of weather conditions including hurricanes, flooding, heat waves, drought etc. and wildfires in 2023. However, we cannot look at climate solutions as a standalone impact area.

The climate crisis impacts certain communities, including women, people of color, coastal and low-and moderate-income communities, more than others. The elderly, women, children, and blue-collar workers are impacted more by heat waves or other severe conditions.¹⁰ Some insurance companies have decided to not insure homes in California and Florida. This will impact low- and moderate-income communities more as competition decreases.

At Veris, we look at the intersectionality of climate, racial & gender equity and economic justice through the lens of a Just Transition Investment Framework. Innovation and allocation to investments that aim to mitigate or adapt to climate change and efforts designed to ensure that members and communities that are disproportionately affected by climate risks are part of the decision-making process and participate in the economic upside will be critical over the coming decades. We are excited about the allocation of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund from the Inflation Reduction Act and the current administration’s Justice 40 initiatives that we believe will help us achieve a Just Transition.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Sustainable Investing

AI and generative AI seems to be the topic that every investor wants to talk about given the meteoric rise in the stock price of Nvidia and valuation of Open AI and peers. The euphoria around generative AI has propelled the global stock market forward and many private market funds are also investing in AI opportunities.¹¹ This raises questions around various topics like morality and ethics in AI and technology, impact on jobs and productivity, discrimination against communities of color, data privacy, the use of biometric data, copyright infringement, surveillance state, fake news, manipulated elections, fraud, etc. The EU has proposed an AI Act around governance framework for ethical AI product development and model training.¹²

AI could shape the future of sustainable investing. AI can enhance sustainability reporting and data analytics and due diligence, help with implementation of corporate ESG strategy, operational efficiencies and drive reduction in consumptions and GHG emissions through acceleration in science and new materials, etc. However, we are in the early innings of the rollout of AI, and we believe we need robust governance structures to ensure that the use of AI results in an equitable, just and sustainable world.

The Future of Impact Measurement and Management

Lack of transparency and trust in reported data continue to improve but there are still concerns about authenticity or greenwashing. We believe various regulations and bills mentioned earlier have helped or will help alleviate some of these concerns.

Since the EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation enforcement started in March 2021, asset managers have been required to provide more information on sustainability risks, how they incorporate environmental or social characteristics in their investments, and impact of their investment products. This has shifted the availability of data as well as rigor. Many investment managers are now reporting impact metrics and we would like them to report impact outcomes.

Standardization and assurance requirements of the SEC’s Climate Disclosures rules and various frameworks, metrics and firms that have propped up over the years have helped to verify authenticity of impact investments but much needs to be done.


The impact investing industry has historically been innovative and collaborative. Many innovative investments products focused on employee ownership, decarceration, climate justice, regenerative agriculture, climate adaptation and decarbonization of hard to abate sectors, have come to market in recent years. These products have the potential to make an immense positive environmental and social impact.

In the last few years, Veris has adopted our EDI manager due diligence framework and the Just Transition Investment Framework which are designed to help our clients allocate their investments to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.

We believe that initiatives like Due Diligence 2.0, 2X Global and Tara Health Foundation’s Diverse Investing Collective have helped improve allocation to diverse and first-time fund managers. It is our view that the combination of innovative products and commitments will help tackle inequality, and other global challenges as well, through capital markets.

Veris is excited to be part of this ecosystem by working with asset owners, investment managers, and data and solution providers.

Looking Beyond 2024

We live in a world that is full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) with wars, partisanship, and political turmoil not just in the US but globally, and anti-ESG and DEI attacks, but the trends highlighted shows that momentum is strong. I believe investors have higher conviction in ESG, DEI, and impact investing now more than ever, and I expect that both interest and momentum will continue to grow in the future. 

Roraj Pradhananga is a Partner, Co-CIO, and Managing Director, Investments at Veris. 



The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only 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 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 CEO Stephanie Cohn Rupp Interviewed About Sustainable Investing on Fintech TV

Remy Blaire interviewed Veris’ CEO Stephanie Cohn Rupp about sustainable investing for Fintech TV in March of 2024. 

Transcript of the Interview

Remy Blaire: Welcome to Impact TV, I’m Remy Blaire. Investing can achieve social and environmental benefits all while generating financial returns. Joining me today is Stephanie Cohn Rupp, CEO of Veris Wealth Partners, a Certified B Corp. Stephanie, thank you so much for joining me today. 

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: Thank you for having me. 

Remy Blaire: 2024 is well underway and…there are areas of opportunities that may be supportive of sustainability efforts and are also aligned with impact. What are the important themes that you’re paying attention to this year?

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: Two big themes are climate solutions and what we call DEIB: diversity equity, inclusion, and belonging. The overlap of these two themes is what we call climate justice. We believe there are plenty of opportunities out there. There are great new technologies and innovative funds (including) interesting funds that are focused on inclusion. Because we believe that investors are not impartial and it’s important to understand inherent biases to make optimal investment solutions. And so, one of our themes is inclusion, which doesn’t mean quotas, doesn’t mean excluding anybody. It means providing more opportunity and investing more broadly into entrepreneurs throughout the United States. 

Remy Blaire: Adaptation, resilience, and response to climate and weather events is very real for many regions and communities around the globe. In terms of what you’re hearing from your clients about their commitments to sustainable investing. Can you give us a little bit of insight?

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: Our approach is truly across asset classes; we don’t believe there’s a golden bullet or silver bullet that will give you a single solution. We look throughout the portfolio and see how we can advance the values of our clients. And not all clients agree. You can use exclusion in public equities. You can divest from certain companies; you can invest with certain technology companies on the clean tech side and transition side. You can invest in certain companies that are in oil and gas and engage with them. There’s no need to look at these sectors as demonic — they have to be part of this solution. 

And then we go, from asset class to asset class, into ESG integrated funds where there are certain theories of change that are held by the fund manager. And then on the alternative side – whether it’s private equity, venture, or private debt – looking at solutions where you’re investing directly into regenerative agriculture, sustainable forestry, or in clean tech funds et cetera — it really runs the gamut. We think these solutions need to be integral to the portfolio in all asset classes. There is no single solution. The other thing is there are a lot of disagreements. Some clients believe in nuclear energy, some believe it’s the devil. The how is very specific to the values and the identity of the asset owner. 

Remy Blaire: And Stephanie, the great wealth transfer is something we will all be paying attention to as trillions of dollars transfer hands. So tell me what you see when it comes to millennials and Gen Z, in terms of wealth management and impact orientation. 

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: I am a little counter to the mainstream thinking on this. I think it’s a gender issue and not a generational issue. We have clients who are values driven, who are phenomenal and knowledgeable about all these solutions and they’re 72 years old. And then we have clients in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, who really care about values investing. So, I don’t find it to be a generational thing. 

I think everyone is getting into the sector and understanding climate change is an existential threat to humanity. And so, whether you are grandparents or are just graduating from college, the issue is salient. What I have found though, and this is much more anecdotal, but in the client base, the women are often the most passionate about poverty alleviation, economic development, and fighting climate change.  

I wrote an article a few months ago (ESG Critics Are On The Wrong Side of History) after looking at whether high net worth women, both Democratic and Republican, care about climate issues. And (polling data indicates that) Republican women care about climate as much as Democratic women care about climate.1 So I do think there’s much more consciousness and I would say an eagerness to act from women than from men, from the experiences that I have had at Veris Wealth Partners. 

Remy Blaire: And private markets represent opportunities to drive impact while also adding diversification portfolios. It does go without saying that it’s vital to consider investments in the portfolio context — diversifying across different approaches and asset classes. So, what does it mean to invest for impact across asset classes?

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: We have different methods for each of the different asset classes and sub-asset classes. We don’t invest in commodities, and we also don’t invest in crypto. I can quickly go through the asset classes. On the public side, you can negatively screen – take out the companies you don’t like – maybe it’s pornography, maybe it’s guns – it really depends on the values of the individual. Otherwise, you can positively tilt for the companies and industry you really believe in you can go overweight on. Then you can choose active strategies in the public equity side, where the manager actively engages with companies – there’s a certain degree of change. And then there’s private debt – investing in (for example) loan funds that invest in entrepreneurs in inner cities, who invest in entrepreneurs who are Indigenous, who invest in entrepreneurs who have been forgotten by the financial system as we know it. On the private equity side, we have all sorts of interesting strategies as well. These could be focused on climate, on wealth building, on women as entrepreneurs and beneficiaries, or generally about inclusion. And then the final piece is on the venture capital side so those are the longer lockups and higher risk investments into funds that do incredible work backing social entrepreneurs who really care about changing the world as we know it. (For example) a very interesting strategy around wealth building using ESOPs… So, it really runs the gamut. You can really use all the levels within a portfolio for it to be values aligned. 

Remy Blaire: And Stephanie, last but not least, before we let you go, we are seeing plenty of turbulence in geopolitics. Then we’re also seeing plenty of stress in the post pandemic global landscape. We’ve also been seeing upheaval when it comes to ESG, as well as DEI practices. What is your view in terms of DEI and the wealth management industry, and what do you think of the rule for wealth managers out there? 

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding, both in the world of ESG and the world (in general) about DEI. ESG truly is about values aligned investing. I have met pro-life values aligned investors and pro-choice values aligned investors. ESG is really not only a certain monolithic view of the world. What it is, truly, is aligning your investments with your values.

You care about how you vote, what car you drive, how you eat – people express their identity through a whole host of things. What we’re saying in my industry is you should also own what you own from a financial perspective because there are real world impacts. This is not “woke finance.” I think that is a great misunderstanding. It is values alignment. The Koch brothers are conservative, but they are also values-aligned investors. It is agnostic in a lot of ways, but I think there’s a misnomer that it’s only extremely left because you have a lot of actions against the traditional extractive industries like oil and gas. 

On the DEI side, I also think what’s important to understand is that there are historical wrongs. Currently 7.7% of the population of the United States is comprised of African-American women and only 0.3% of all the venture capital funds – including billions of dollars invested in venture capital – only 0.3% goes to African-American women. The movement is not saying, “Let’s not invest in men, let’s not invest in Caucasian women,” It’s just saying, if you believe that talent is equally distributed, you should be investing in a way that is equally distributed. And so, it’s much more about inclusion than exclusion. And I think there’s a lot of fear and a mentality of scarcity thinking if we invest in certain minorities or certain populations we’re divesting, we’re giving less to others. And actually, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Everybody benefits in the United States when the economy is booming, when there’s greater investment, therefore greater consumption. I think we really have to get away from that zero-sum game mentality. Diversity is not about that. It’s not about zero-sum games. It’s really about raising all boats and trying to ensure that everybody’s included in the economy, so everybody wins. That is fundamentally at the heart of the movement. 

Remy Blaire: Well, Stephanie, I think it’s really important to make that distinction. So thank you so much for clarifying that. Thank you so much for joining me today. 

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: Thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure.

Note: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity and length. 

2023 End of Year Letter From Veris CIO Michael Lent

By Michael Lent, Co-founder and CIO of Veris Wealth Partners 

This letter was originally published as part of Veris’ 2023 Impact Report.

I write this at a time of great turbulence in the world. We are seeing acts of violence and warfare, extreme partisanship and political turmoil, and a barrage of attacks on ESG investing and DEI practices. 

It can sometimes be hard to feel hopeful in this period, but I still believe that progress is being made and that impact investors are making meaningful contributions towards solving social and environmental challenges.  

Despite the turbulence, the US economy has been doing fairly well,¹ workers have been gaining at the bargaining table,² and the energy transition is moving forward³ (albeit at a slower pace than we would like to see). 

Silver Linings 

In my view, the attacks on ESG and DEI present an opportunity for us to determine who in the investment field is authentically committed to these issues and who is not. For example, some mutual funds and ETFs have stopped marketing themselves as ESG or Sustainable because they were not truly committed to an authentic process and instead were greenwashing.⁴ 

The SEC recently adopted the Names Rule which requires funds that use ESG in the name invest at least 80% of the value of its assets in alignment with ESG factors.⁵ It appears that some asset managers and investors do not want to stand up to the scrutiny of the Republican AGs and House committees and have stopped using ESG or DEI in fund names even if they continue to offer investment options in this area.  

However, those funds and managers that are committed to ESG and DEI are staying the course and continuing to innovate, deepen their analysis, and move our field forward.⁶    

Challenges We Are Facing on the Route to a Decarbonized Economy

It is important to recognize that it has been a difficult market environment for ESG and Impact Investors as well. The traditional energy sector (oil and gas), which is one of the largest contributors to climate change, has been one of the best performing areas of the public equity markets over the past three years due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, OPEC+ supply constraints coming from Saudi Arabia and Russia, and the emerging Middle East Conflict.⁷  

Renewable energy stocks have underperformed during the same time due to their high capital requirements, higher borrowing costs, and increased cost of inputs.⁸ ⁹

This has had an impact on portfolios that are fossil fuel free and low carbon. Some environmental thematic equity managers and funds have had some short-term underperformance. However, we see this as a short-term phenomenon. Over the past ten years traditional energy stocks have been the worst performing sector of the market. 

S&P 500 GICS Sectors Annualized 10-year Risk/Return. Source: Morningstar 2023

The US Inflation Reduction Act, the Chinese commitment to significant investment in solar power and Electric Vehicles, the need for Europe to become less dependent on natural gas and the innovations in energy efficiency and other low carbon options will likely provide a tailwind over the medium term. 

We think the current challenge is bringing together the desire to decarbonize the economy with a just transition that addresses frontline community needs and the need for POC and labor to participate in the economy of the future. Our report highlights our Just Transition Investment Framework and two investment examples. We are committed to identifying more options in the next several years as we see this as one of the most important contributions impact investors can make. 

Progress Towards Our Firm’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Goals

Veris has made a commitment to continue to bring EDI managers on our platform and work with our current managers to encourage progress in this area. See our firm’s report on Investing in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging for more information about our approach. 

Despite the attacks on DEI, we have been able to identify new opportunities for investing with DEI managers: both diverse teams and those using a DEI investing lens.

We have brought to our platform several excellent EDI managers, some of whom are first-time fund managers. Investing in first-time EDI managers is critical to ensure that the field becomes more diverse in the future. As we have outlined in this report our engagements with our approved managers have resulted in better EDI-specific data collection and we are seeing improvement in the diversity of metrics and disclosures. While these improvements are important, we are committed to making further progress to meet our goals.

Our Work Continues 

Since the very beginning of our firm’s history, Veris has had a vision to build a more just, equitable, and sustainable world through our investments and our practices. The challenges the world is facing require bold and innovative approaches. We are not daunted by the most recent challenges and see that they create new opportunities. 

I thank our Managing Director of Investments, Roraj Pradhananga and his Investments Team for the excellent work they are doing in advancing our impact investing research and continuing to innovate to achieve our vision.

Michael Lent

Chief Investment Officer and Founding Partner

Veris’ 2023 Impact Report is available for download here

Veris Wealth Partners annual impact report for 2023. Featuring highlights of the social and environmental impact of our clients' investments and shareholder activism. Also features the debut of our Climate Justice Investing Framework.











This content is intended for informational purposes only, provides only a summary of topics discussed, does not constitute personalized investment advice or recommendations, and solely reflects the opinions of Veris Wealth Partners (“Veris”), which are subject to change without notice. The information contained in this document contains certain forward-looking statements, often characterized by words such as “believes,” “anticipates,” “plans,” “expects,” “projects,” and other similar words, that indicate future possibilities. Due to known and unknown risks, other uncertainties and factors, actual results may differ materially from the expectations portrayed in such forward-looking statements.

Certain information contained herein is derived from third party sources. While Veris believes such information to be accurate, we have not independently verified the accuracy or completeness of such information.

Impact Focus Q3 2023: Inflation, Interest Rates, and Corporate Profits

By Jane Swan, CFA

In the hours approaching the end of the third quarter of 2023, Congress passed a bipartisan 45-day funding bill, temporarily preventing a government shutdown. At the time, President Biden prematurely expressed optimism for continuing engagement with Speaker McCarthy in a bipartisan process to approve a budget, including ongoing aid to Ukraine.1 Within two days, Representative Gaetz of Florida began the process of removing McCarthy as Speaker. That effort succeeded on October 3rd.  The need to organize new leadership and pass a budget was eclipsed by the humanitarian crisis in Israel and Gaza. 

Three weeks and three failed speaker candidates later, the Republican House majority elected far-right Republican Mike Johnson. Mike Johnson supported and played a key role in former President Trump’s effort to undermine the results of the 2020 election. The new Speaker could drive further uncertainty in policymaking as bipartisanship will be further out of reach. 

The need for leadership and the importance of passing a budget is crucial for maintaining a stable economy and providing financial, humanitarian, and diplomatic support to Ukraine and now also in the Middle East. Additionally, inflation continues to infuse the economy, markets, and consumers with increasing uncertainty. 

In this impact-focused review of Q3 2023, we will pay close attention to the relationships between income inequality, inflation, and corporate profits. You can read our overview of economic and market activity in Q3 here

For several reasons, inflation has a greater impact on low-income, low-wealth families than those with higher incomes or high wealth. Non-discretionary items like food, housing, and fuel tend to make up a higher percentage of their household spending.2 Families with more financial privileges can cope with inflation through prudent choices, such as buying generic rather than luxury brands, reducing travel and restaurant consumption, as well as limiting retail choices.3 Over the last 20 months, the Federal Reserve (The Fed) has aggressively raised interest rates, making 11 hikes for a total increase of 5%. In doing so, Fed officials have often cited the disproportionate impact inflation has on low-income families.4

However, when we look at how inflation hurts low-income families, interest rate hikes frame a scenario where the cure is potentially worse than the disease. When interest rate hikes discourage spending, the result can be an increase in unemployment. This harms workers who lose jobs, as well as the ability for employed people to demand higher wages.5 Historically, women and Black workers have faced the greatest obstacles to employment in periods of high unemployment.6  

The negative impact for low-income families goes beyond potential employment risks.

The bottom 80% of households have depleted most of their excess savings and are taking on more debt.7 Default rates on auto loans are higher now than at any point in recorded history.8 Borrowers with high credit scores may feel current new car loan rates around 5% are high, but that pales in comparison to rates over 14% which are paid by people with low credit scores through subprime loans, which were one of the reasons for the housing market crash in 2007 and 2008.9 The ongoing high interest rates impact low-income households through obvious consequences like interest charges on credit card debt. Additionally, higher interest rates make home ownership even more unattainable to low-income borrowers with less available for down payments, requiring them to finance a higher percentage of home purchases.10 The link between the wealth gap and homeownership is examined in our DEIB Investing report, published this fall. 

Looking at income by decile (5 groups, each representing 20% of income groups) we see that while income has been relatively flat for the bottom 60% of income earners, it has grown steadily for those between 61 and 80%, and sharply for the top 20% of income earners.11 

Suppressed wage growth for lower earners over recent decades makes these populations simultaneously vulnerable to inflation and high interest rates. While wage growth on average has been higher through the COVID recovery and high inflation period, it is estimated that it will take another year for those wage hikes to make up for the negative income effect of inflation. 

As The Fed works to combat inflation, we believe it is important to examine how prices are set, and some potential causes of inflation. A producer of goods and services usually sets a price based on the costs of production (including labor) and marks up the price to add a profit. If they include too much profit in the price, consumers may look for substitute goods. If consumers choose substitute goods, the producer may decide to reduce the profit from each unit sold to attract more consumers. This is the supply/demand relationship. When wage increases lead to increases in prices and higher inflation, workers are likely to demand even higher wages. This is known as the wage-price spiral.

At the first signs of inflation in 2021, The Fed and many analysts expected that the inflation was “transitory” or temporary.12 Supply chain and a tight labor market were seen as temporary problems that would resolve with remedies to supply-chain constraints and stabilization of the tight labor market.13 As high inflation has persisted beyond the period of significant supply chain constraints and as wages have grown less than inflation, analysis in 2023 has increasingly included examination of increasing corporate profits as a significant contributor to inflation. In February of 2023, The Fed was pointing to signs that the wage growth was moderating and began to shift some focus to what they called “The wage-price spiral.”14

graph depicting markup, post tax

The “Mark Up” in prices, which increased during and after COVID has protected corporate earnings while contributing to inflation.15 

From 2020 to 2022, non-labor cost changes as a component of increasing prices stayed about the same as they were from 2007-2019, changing from 28.6% pre-COVID to 32.3% during and after COVID. Comparing these same time periods, unit labor costs as a component of increasing prices actually went down from 58.4% to 32.8% during and after COVID.

The biggest change in contributions to iBar graph depicting contributions to increasing pricesncreasing prices came from profits, which were 13.1% of contributions to increasing prices before the pandemic but have been 34.4% of contributions to profits in the years that followed.

Unless corporations reduce prices to reflect improving supply chains and lower prices of inputs, low-income families will not benefit from real wage growth as the rate of inflation subsides. Otherwise, the only beneficiaries are owners and shareholders of these companies. 

All investors, including impact investors, benefit from and are protected by increasing prices. Some impact investors attempt to distinguish ourselves by examining these relationships and exploring and including alternate investments which aim to remedy some of the externalities in our financial systems. Notes in Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and CDs with Credit Unions can reduce the negative impact of high interest rates on low-income communities by offering subsidized or low-interest loans to borrowers often excluded from traditional bank loans. Some impact investors make investments in companies that seek to remedy inequities in how credit scores ratings are set, taking action towards leveling the playing field. 

For more information on impact solutions to the problems of inflation and high interest rates, please see our DEIB Investing Report or speak to your advisor.  


Jane Swan is a Partner & Senior Advisor at Veris Wealth Partners and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®). 


  4. ,
  11. FRED: Income Before Taxes: Wages and Salaries by Quintiles of Income Before Taxes: By Decile, U.S. Dollars, Annual, Not Seasonally Adjusted
  16. Ibid


The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only 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 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. Information related to the performance of certain benchmark indices is provided for illustrative purposes only as investors cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance is not indicative of or a guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of all amounts invested.

Veris visited Washington D.C. Our firm's delegation to US SIF Capitol Hill Day and Member Day events share their insights.

Veris Goes to Washington: Insights from US SIF’s 2023 Capitol Hill Day & Member Day

The US Sustainable Investment Forum (US SIF) is a member-based organization, established to be the leading voice advancing sustainable investing across all asset classes. Their mission is to rapidly shift investment practices toward sustainability, focusing on long-term investment and the generation of positive social and environmental impacts.

Veris was proud to co-sponsor US SIF’s 2023 Capitol Hill Day and Member Day in Washington D.C. this summer. Our firm sent Veris CEO Stephanie Cohn Rupp; CIO Michael Lent, Managing Director of Research Roraj Pradhananga, and Director of National Client Service Karen Walls deRochemont to Washington to participate in both events. 

Roraj Pradhananga, Michael Lent, and Karen Walls of Veris Wealth Partners in front of the US Capitol building.

Roraj Pradhananga, Michael Lent, and Karen Walls of Veris Wealth Partners in front of the US Capitol building.

Capitol Hill Day Activities

As part of Capitol Hill Day, approximately 50 US SIF members met with the offices of 40 different Representatives and Senators from both sides of the aisle to help educate members of Congress on financially material Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors and data and why they are important to investors, urge them to support SEC disclosure proposals around climate risk and human capital issues, ask members to support the Congressional Sustainable Caucus in the US House of Representatives and to not allow riders to be attached to the Authorization’s bills that would limit the SEC’s authority. 

The delegation from Veris spoke with congressional aides who work with members of Congress including Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) Corey Booker (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Angus King (I-ME), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Ann Kuster (D-NH). 

It was an honor to walk the halls of Congress in support of our firm’s mission and our clients’ vision for the future. 

Member Day Activities

The delegation from Veris also participated in US SIF’s Member Day event, which gathers together some of the leading voices of the sustainable investment movement for knowledge sharing and field-building conversations. 

At 2023’s Member Day event, we heard remarks from Representative Sean Casten (D, IL-6), Co-Chair of the Congressional Sustainable Investment Caucus, engaged in a listening session with incoming US SIF President Maria Lettini, and heard from industry experts on topics including refocusing the narrative around anti-ESG messaging and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. 

Stephanie Cohn Rupp, CEO of Veris Wealth Partners and US SIF's Director of Education and Outreach Michael Young.

Stephanie Cohn Rupp, CEO of Veris Wealth Partners and US SIF’s Director of Education and Outreach Michael Young. 

The Veris Delegation’s 6 Major Takeaways 

1. Congressional offices are knowledgeable about ESG topics. 

During our Capitol Hill Day experience, the Veris team saw high levels of conviction and interest from legislative aides who were extremely well versed in the legislative issues around ESG topics. It was inspiring to see so many passionate young professionals who are working to educate our congressional representatives and senators about pending legislation. 

We also saw signs of progress made in terms of greater congressional awareness of relevant critical issues surrounding ESG and in the depth of the questions that had to address their concerns. For example, Senator Chuck Schumer and his aide were very aware of EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). Their primary questions were around avoiding the pitfalls they have seen Europe face. They wanted our thoughts on the best approach for how to incorporate and codify disclosure rules going forward. They were digging into these topics in detail to inform decision making and rulemaking. 

Hopefully the Congressional Sustainability Investment Caucus, which was created to help inform Congress about ESG topics, will continue to look for new Representatives to join to continue to be internal advocates for these critical issues.

2. There is strong support for SEC disclosure rules. 

All the Democrats that the Veris delegation spoke with were supportive of SEC disclosure rules on Climate Risk and Human Capital Management. 

When we advocated for the passage of SEC disclosure rules, we heard aides say that they see it as a way of increasing transparency for investors so they can better understand the potential impacts of their investment. We heard some aides emphasize the need for public messaging around the potentially negative impact of not including financially material ESG factors in investment decision making. 

The primary concern we heard from our Congressional representatives around standards requiring Scope 3 emission measurement and reporting, was that the requirements might place regulatory burdens on corporations and small businesses. They are concerned about the impact on farmers and the restaurant industry especially and are seeking ways to address these issues. 

Veris' Managing Director of Research Roraj Pradhananga with members of US SIF.

Veris’ Managing Director of Research Roraj Pradhananga with members of US SIF.

3. We heard support for universal global standards. 

One major refrain we heard concerned the need for universal global standards for measurement and reporting of material ESG factors to make it easier for businesses to comply. Linda-Eling Lee, Head of ESG research at MSCI, said that it will be important to ensure that the US  standard is consistent with the regulatory framework in Europe. Universal global standards would make it easier for businesses that operate both in the US and in Europe to comply, because they would not have to abide by two separate sets of rules. 

4. US Congress members on both sides of the aisle need to hear from ESG supporters.

We heard it expressed that our field needs to have a strategy for engaging Republican members of the Senate who seem to be persuadable to vote for policies that support ESG investing. This is particularly important because there are concerns that SEC rulemaking could be blocked by attachments to the appropriation bills in September. 

We also heard from congressional staffers that Democrats need to hear from their constituents on these issues just as much as Republicans do. Hearing from constituents is very important for driving action in Congress across the political spectrum. 

As part of the conversation with Senator Mendez’s office, we discussed the fact that the House passed the Corporate Governance Improvement and Investor Protection Act, which would require disclosure of racial, gender, ethnicity of the board and C-suite members of public companies, in June of 2021 but it still hasn’t passed in the Senate. This Act includes many provisions we want to see, including disclosure on diversity, lobbying, C-Suite compensation, climate related risks, and more. Senator Menendez is pushing for more corporate governance disclosure and there is the potential for movement on that soon. If you support that, you may wish to write to your senators to express your views. 

5. We need to get better at explaining ESG. 

One of the major themes of the conversations that took place at US SIF’s Member Day event was that, as a field, we need to do a better job of explaining what ESG is and why integration of financially material ESG factors is so important in investment decision making. 

Most of the anti-ESG sentiment is broad and focuses on terminology instead of real-world concerns. Critics of ESG tend to attack the acronym in general ways – calling it “woke capitalism” instead of pointing to specific issues. 

We heard an idea expressed that the best approach would be to focus on our shared values and find ways to talk about financially material ESG factors and ESG in personal terms so that it’s more relatable. One powerful way to do this would be to offer real-world examples of environmental, social, and/or governance factors guiding decision-making. For example, increased wildfire risk due to climate change has already led at least two major insurance companies to stop offering homeowners insurance in the state of California.

Take a look at to get specific talking points to help connect with people – your friends, family, colleagues and elected representatives alike. 

6. US SIF seeks to further build the field. 

US SIF is helping to build the field of sustainable investing through research, education, media outreach, and policy advocacy. Your voice and perspective can help accelerate that work. 

If you are not already a member, consider joining US SIF. Membership is open to asset owners and asset management firms, and other types of organizations and service providers that are active in the field of sustainable and responsible investing.

If you are a member, US SIF’s New CEO Maria Lettini said at Member Day that she is actively seeking feedback on the future of the organization. She wants to hear from Members on what vision for the future we collectively want to see the organization advocating for. If you are a member, you can contact US SIF to express your ideas about the best path forward.


The information above is provided for informational purposes only, represents only a summary of topics discussed, does not constitute investment advice, and solely reflects the views of the authors, which are subject to change without notice. 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.

Although Veris has highlighted herein various initiatives relating to policy activism in which it has participated, no inference should be drawn as to the success or failure of such initiatives or the ultimate impact on the financial or impact results achieved by our clients.  

Water Ripple

Don’t Fall Behind – Water Is A Great Opportunity For Investors

Veris Guest Blog: By David Richardson, CFA

The theme of the UN’s annual World Water Day last month was “leave no-one behind.” This sentiment is applicable to both emerging markets and the developed world, while offering opportunities for investors in water.

The sixth sustainable development goal (SDG) from the UN is clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. The UN celebrates this day each year to call attention to this global priority and to advocate for sustainable management of freshwater resources.

While the need to develop water infrastructure in the developing world is understood, access to clean water, as the ongoing 2014 Flint, Michigan water crisis illustrates, is an issue for the developed world too.

My firm, Impax Asset Management, has been researching and investing in listed water related companies since 1999, running a dedicated strategy since 2008. In recent years, we have seen the universe of investable companies increase and an acceleration in the growth of many of its constituent companies. Climate change, pollution and a growing, increasingly urban population all drive demand that innovation and technology can help fulfil.

Governments, public bodies and private industry are all investing in new and upgraded infrastructure, and the investment momentum keeps gaining pace.

Access and changing preferences
Leaving no one behind in emerging market regions, like China, India and Sub-Sahara, largely requires the development of water infrastructure where it previously did not exist.

It is a positive development driven in no small part by urbanization, growing populations and changes in consumption patterns that demand higher standards of living. This isn’t just about access to clean water and water treatment. Many items taken for granted by urban dwellers require a significant amount of water to produce. A hamburger, for instance, requires 460 gallons (2,090 liters) of water to make.1

Aging infrastructure
A great deal of the infrastructure in the developed world is outdated, inefficient and/or struggling to meet modern water demands. This was exemplified by the Flint’s water crisis, where cost-cutting led to insufficient water treatment and lead leaching into the water supply. The project to replace the lead pipes, which commenced in 2016, continues with costs running into hundreds of millions of dollars.2

Climate change
Climate change is impacting water security. In recent years there have been a number of severe periods of drought and water shortages that have impacted farming yields, industrial productivity and meant loss of revenue for workers, such as the 2012–16 California and the 2014-2017 Brazil droughts.

Most recently, South Africa’s second largest city Cape Town, with a population of about 4 million people, suffered its own water crisis. Rainfall well below historical levels meant the City’s main reservoir was close to empty in March 2018. Cape Town residential water use was cut from about 120 liters per person per day in 2015 to 50 liters at the start of 2018.

For officials and residents in these regions, the long-term impact of climate change on water supply requires investment in a range of measures, including conservation and leak detection. Examples of other extreme weather events, like storms, represent a different priority, where protection and clean-up can be more pressing.3

An abundance of opportunities
The investment opportunities in water are surprisingly diverse and resilient. Risk characteristics are comparable to equity markets, and water runs through the global economy, across markets, sectors and regions. Water also provides attractive opportunities through the economic cycle, encompassing both defensive and cyclical businesses.

Technology and innovation play key roles in reducing water consumption. Smart meters, for example, can help utilities manage the supporting infrastructure more efficiently, and provide an early warning sign of and location of leaks. Public entities and private industry globally are investing in upgrading their infrastructure and this investment momentum looks set to continue.

Friends of the Earth and Impax Asset Management ‘Investing in water: tapping into a source of resilient growth’
3The Financial Times

David Richardson, CFA®, is Executive Director of Impax Asset Management, which has more than $16 billion in assets under management.

water bubble

Ellen Remmer: An Inspiring Journey About Impact Investing and Empowering Women

By Anders Ferguson, Partner

Ellen Remmer’s journey from enlightened philanthropist to impact investor is a story that can inspire all of us.

Ellen RemmerEllen grew up in a philanthropically engaged family that established a family foundation in 1990. Over the course of the past 30 years, Ellen’s vision has steadily evolved, and today she is a champion of impact investing and the opportunities to align her wealth and her values.

Recently, her mission has focused on helping women take control of their assets and invest with greater purpose and impact. Her vision manifested in a new nonprofit initiative, Invest for Better, which launched in January.

Last month, I sat down with Ellen to discuss her life’s journey. I wanted to share her experience because it speaks to the potential of investing capital to achieve both social benefit and financial gain. It’s also instructive in describing how investors can change their mind about the role and possibilities of wealth.

Developing Consciousness
Influenced by her family’s focus on the greater good through its foundation, Ellen began her career in 1990 as an advisor to philanthropic families and organizations. She primarily served families of significant wealth who wanted to be more effective donors to create positive change.

In 2000, Ellen attended a Council on Foundations meeting in NYC, where she heard a representative from the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation talk about the idea of Mission-Related Investing. At that point, a lightbulb went off. Ellen realized that foundations can use their endowments’ capital to further their goals – a grant and invest.

This was a transformative moment for Ellen, who had always advised families to “give away” money to accomplish their mission. Ellen’s epiphany, however, was still ahead of its time. Her vision had only tepid support from advisors and co-trustees. The objections were similar to those we still hear today. “It won’t work.” “We’ll lose money.” “Not fiduciarily responsible.”

Education Is Key
Undaunted, Ellen kept pushing. In 2007, she was appointed to lead The Philanthropic Initiative(TPI), a philanthropic advisory practice for individuals, families, foundations, and businesses. In that new role, her thinking evolved further. She was responsible for identifying critical issues and trends in the field and translating them into practical advice for philanthropic clients.

The challenge was how to present the notion of impact investing to families and demonstrate fiduciary responsibility at the same time. She knew the task at hand was to educate and help investors think in new ways.

TPI worked with a number of partners to help clients assess opportunities for Mission-Related Investing. They also facilitated an initiative to help community foundations offer impact investing to their donors.

After years of advising families and watching others struggle forward, Ellen felt she had not made the big step in transforming her wealth and portfolio. As Ellen told us, “I simply was not practicing what I was preaching.”

As she became comfortable with the benefits of impact investing, she reflected on the advice she had been receiving from her advisors. It was clear most weren’t aware that wealth could be aligned with values and that a rigorous investment approach could achieve meaningful financial results andsocial benefit for clients. As Ellen noted, it’s easy to simply “follow the recommendations of your advisor.”

Ellen responded by giving her advisor an ultimatum: Could the advisor’s team meet her needs as an impact investor? It quickly became evident the advisor couldn’t, and that’s when we welcomed her to Veris.

A Different Way
As an impact investor with Veris, we have helped Ellen seek market-rate returns that proved the skeptics in her family wrong. She learned that impact investing was a sound and viable approach to creating social benefit and financial gain.

Working through her foundation, she then moved to higher-impact investments, which not only accomplished her financial objectives, but also brought Ellen personal joy. Her son joined her family’s foundation board. He was very interested in impact investing and helped bring along the rest of the family.

Always advancing, Ellen wrote the TPI Guide to Impact Investing, which furthered her thinking about women and impact investing. She understood that women, in particular, have a special interest in impact investing, but often fail to translate their intent into action.

Invest for Better
So, Ellen got determined to help women invest with impact. Her goals were to educate and empower women about impacting investing, while demystifying the process.

All of this work has culminated in her current project, Invest For Better, a nonprofit campaign whose collaborators include TPI, Mission Throttle, Mission Investors Exchange, The Case Foundation, among others.

Ellen believes more women should be engaged in impact investing than they are today, but says there are three “gaps” that prevent more women from doing so.

The first is the aspiration gap – the disconnect between interest and action among women. Second is the application gap – having the time and confidence to invest with impact. Third is the support gap – having advisors and peers to discuss impact investing.

Like all of Ellen’s work, she has put her heart, soul and keen intellect into her new project. The team at Veris believes this well-timed initiative will play a vital role in motivating women to embrace impact investing.

More than anything, Ellen is one of those courageous leaders whose passion, energy and vision will continue to inspire us all.

Thank you, Ellen.

Veris 2017 Impact Report

2017: Another Breakthrough Year for Impact Investing

Veris is proud to announce the release of our 3rd annual Impact Report, highlighting the collective achievements of its clients, the Veris team, and the investment managers we work with.

Veris 2017 Impact ReportAmong the milestones of the past year: Veris celebrated its 10th anniversary, reached $1 billion in client assets under management, and was named as a B Corporation Best for the World company for the sixth consecutive year.

The 24-page report describes the environmental and social impact resulting from our clients’ collective investments in our five thematic areas: Climate Change & the Environment, Community Wealth Building & Social Equality, Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, Gender Lens Investing, and Mindfulness & Sustainability.

The report also focuses on how Veris measures impact, both quantitatively and qualitatively. As part of our ongoing due diligence, we look at the role public companies, shareholder advocacy, private social enterprises, and community development solutions play in creating a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

Making Progress
We’re pleased to note that we have seen great progress each year in terms of understanding and communicating the impact of portfolio companies.

In 2017, impact reporting took a leap forward with the development of systems-level frameworks, such as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. To encourage more common language in impact reporting, Veris also reports metrics established by the Global Impact Investing Network’s (GIIN) Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS). IRIS facilitates comparison and best practices, transparency, and accountability in impact measurement.

What is also interesting about this year’s report is what it says about the positive direction of impact investing. We’re seeing increased momentum across the field – such as major commitments from conventional investors and growth of the Green Bond market and assets invested with a Gender Lens. If you haven’t seen our 2018 analysis of Gender Lens Investing, please feel free to download it here.

We believe these trends validate what Veris clients and our team have recognized for a decade: that investors can align their wealth with their values. The 2017 Veris Impact Report demonstrates our commitment to delivering the most impactful investment opportunities and supporting the overall growth of sustainable and impact investing.

We hope you will read our report, and we look forward to your feedback.

Click here to download the full report.

Opportunity Zones

Opportunity Zones

By Lori Choi, Partner

“Opportunity Zones” are a hot topic in impact investing these days, but what are they and why might they be important for investors?

Embedded in the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law, December 2017, are provisions around “Opportunity Zones.” They ask governors of all states and territories to designate up to a quarter of low-income census tracts as investible zones. The aim is to attract investment to these distressed communities by allowing investors to defer, reduce, or potentially eliminate capital gains taxes over time.

Why is this program important? According to Rockefeller Foundation President, Rajiv Shah, Opportunity Zones represent “the single biggest tax incentive to invest in low-income communities across America that we’ve seen in 100 years.”1 While impact investing champions are cautiously optimistic about the amount of dollars that could flow to low income communities, this new policy is also exciting in its potential to draw more mainstream investors into impact investing. According to the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance “there are currently trillions of dollars’ worth of unrealized gains in the capital markets. If even a portion of those gains are moved to invest in distressed communities, it could have a transformative impact.”2

Investors must invest in Qualified Opportunity Zone Funds within 180 days of selling an appreciated asset to receive the tax benefits, although the number of investment funds being created is still limited. Several of Veris’ impact investing partners are looking into forming Opportunity Zone Funds. We look forward to keeping you updated about how these may or may not be appropriate for your situation and goals.

Investors in Qualified Opportunity Funds will get to benefit in three ways:
• Taxes due on capital gains deferred until December 31, 2026, at the latest.
• Capital gains will be reduced by 10% for investments held 5+ years and 15% for 7+ years.
• Capital gains will be permanently eliminated for investments held 10+ years.

Impact investing champions like the Kresge Foundation3 have come forward to support the creation of Opportunity Zone Funds.