Sistering Up: But first, canapé anyone?

As published as SheInvests Issue #8 on LinkedIn Influencers.

We are living in a different time. At least, that’s how it feels to me. Our reality today is drastically different from a year ago, six months ago, even perhaps just a month ago. And it is human nature to just do your best to work your way through it when everything is hard, cloudy, noisy, and disorientating. In short, when things don’t feel normal. And this past year has been anything but normal. We are living through a modern pandemic that has killed over three million people and caused hundreds of millions to fall ill. It has pushed our health care systems to the brink, destroyed untold livelihoods, separated families, and isolated our precious elders from the ones they love. But all of this is not new information. We have all been living through this reality in our own way since March of last year.

But now, with vaccinations slowly on the rise and the first tentative steps towards getting back to normal slowly being taken, the question becomes, Now what? What choices will we make going forward in light of everything that has happened? How will we begin to rebuild our lives, relationships, businesses, communities, and social structures? What do we, you, me, all of us, want to build in place of the systems that the pandemic found wanting?

This was the nature of a conversation I had last summer with my dear friend Jessica Houssian, co-CEO of The Equality Fund, right when we were in the thick of it. She was telling me about her work in designing and building one of the largest sustainable feminist funds in history (one billion dollars) to support feminist movements and women’s rights organizations in the middle of a global pandemic. And in the middle of telling me all this, she paused, and then asked me if I had ever heard of the term sistering. No, I responded. Tell me more.

A candid photo of Jacki, Jessica Houssian, and Lisa Witter

It turns out that the word sistering is used primarily as a construction term, and at its most basic, it means to make stronger. Jess described it like this: when you are constructing a building and the frame or support system is proven to be not strong enough, you sister (add) additional material to make it stronger. This process is called sistering. We both agreed that not only was this term awesome, but it was also what we were doing on that phone call. We were sharing our challenges, hopes, and dreams with each other, and asking what we could do to help. We were, and still are, sistering.

Since that day, sistering has become my own personal action word, and I have since stretched it into a personal mantra that I am calling sistering up. To qualify as a good mantra, the words should be motivational, and they should inspire you to be a better version of yourself. I hope that after reading what it means to me, you might consider adopting sistering up as your own mantra as well. And I will connect this back to investing. Promise.

But first, let me explain what I mean.

The way I see it, sistering up is both a mindset and an action oriented framework. And because I am making up this new word combination, I want to take the time to fully explain it. Of course, a sister is usually defined as a woman or girl in relation to other daughters and sons of her parents, as well as close female friends or associates. And we also know that the sisterhood has been commonly used to extend beyond the familial ties to refer to women working together in support of one another. But what about sistering? Well, sistering can describe what we do to support one another. Specifically, what we do as women to make each other stronger. It involves positive action, which is where the “up” in “sistering up” comes into play. We are sistering up in acknowledgement that there are still huge inequities and power structures that exist, and which result in gender related disparities. By sistering up, we will accelerate positive change. #SisteringUp

So on to the framework. The primary idea is that when you learn about something another woman is doing, or are presented with the opportunity to help another woman, there are four buckets of what you can do: Connect, Amplify, Champion, and Partner. And when I say women, I mean all self-identifying women, because we still live in a world where women are less likely to have embedded and unearned societal support systems and networks that help them flourish, which is why this is necessary. And if you don’t agree, please see the most recent edition of the Global Gender Gap Report produced by the World Economic Forum by clicking here.

The SisteringUp Framework

Connect

Take the time to think about who you are connecting with and who you are connected to, and more importantly, to what ends? Make a conscious decision to deepen and expand your connections, especially if you notice that most of your connections are with people from the same background and demographics as you. Take the time to listen and learn about new people and organizations, and park that information somewhere in your brain. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable passing along that information yet, but just knowing about it and making the conscious decision to continue learning every day will enrich your ability to help others in countless ways.

Amplify

You’ve connected and you’ve learned. Now share that information. Sharing can mean telling someone else, buying a product or service, tweeting something out, and in general, making a conscious effort to do something. It may not seem like much, but simply sharing your knowledge, not to mention your endorsement, can do so much. I truly believe that this bucket is incredibly undervalued and under-appreciated. Who knows what outcomes can result from these small acts of amplification? It could very well be that your one tweet, or post, or like, can bridge the gap between two of your followers, who together can make magic happen.

Champion

This bucket reflects a much deeper level of engagement than simply amplifying, as this is where you meaningfully put your capital, be it financial or social, on the line. You are vouching for someone or something because you did your homework, you know the person/company/product/service, and you believe in it. To champion something takes more time and effort, and there is absolutely risk involved. You are putting your reputation behind someone/thing else, and therefore your reputation is now on the line. But the inherent possibilities are also that much more grand. Perhaps there are doors that only you specifically can open because of your lived experience, and this is where you pay that privilege forward.

Partner

This is where you go ALL IN. This is where you don’t just vouch for someone; you partner with them and throw all of your support behind them. To do this, you will have to spend a significant amount of time and energy in support of this person, cause, and/or organization, so there is a limit to how many people with whom you can fully and thoughtfully partner. Therefore, when making that choice, think about why you are doing this and what you hope to accomplish. Both your head (logical) and heart (emotional) should be fully committed, but if you had to pick one, pick heart. Every time.

I feel like I have been using this framework for a long time, but until now, I never articulated it in this way, nor did I have a name for it. But now I do. Sistering Up.

So what does this have to do with investing? A heck of a lot, actually. Let me give you some examples of how I have applied this framework around my own investing, and how you can as well.

Connect

Since I began writing the SheInvests newsletter, I have been talking to more and more women about their money stories. I often start with a question. Can you tell me your earliest memory as it relates to money? Other questions include, what is your biggest fear around money? Do you think you know what you need to know about managing your money? If not, what do you think stops you from gaining that knowledge? To connect means to talk to other people about things, so I invite you to begin to talk to your friends and family members about money.

For myself, this past year, with the help of the incredible Rose Maizner, I have connected with many women, and in particular, women of color fund managers. If you read my Cheerios post, you know why. It is simply unacceptable to me that such a small percentage of investment capital goes to these managers, and I am determined to do as much as I can to change it. My first step was connection.

Amplify

As mentioned above, amplifying can mean a lot of things, but the core idea is to learn, do, and then share. If you read a book about investing, pass it on to a friend. If you have a wonderful woman financial advisor, recommend her to someone else. If you are not feeling confident in your knowledge about money, commit to taking an online course on money fundamentals. You can invite someone to do it with you, or you can buy the course for someone else. I recommend SmartPurse, and full disclosure, I am an investor with them because I believe wholeheartedly in their mission. If you are in a position to write a check of any size to fund a great women-founded company, of course go ahead and do it, but it’s equally important to then tell your friends who might also be in a position to do so as well. And if you are not in a position to write a check, you can still amplify by letting others know that fantastic women founders and entrepreneurs in your network are looking for financial support. Be the person who makes that introduction.

I spend a lot of my time amplifying both in a very personal way, and through all of my social platforms, including this newsletter. On my website I list all of the companies I have invested in, as well as books by authors I know and respect and so much more.

Champion

Championing as it relates to investing depends a lot on how much time you spend in this area. To champion, you want to have done your research and really believe in something. People ask me for investment advice all the time, and what I always say is that I am not an investment advisor, but here is what I am doing and why. Championing, not advising. If you spend the time to identify a great company, stock, or gender lens ETF, tell your friends about it.

For me, when I invest in a start-up or a fund, I allow the founders to use my name with other investors. And this is incredibly helpful to them! It is human nature to want to know who else is ‘in’, and at times, it is that social capital that is as important as the financial capital. I also champion people and funds that I may not be invested in for one reason or another, but really believe in nevertheless.

Partner

Again, to some degree, this depends on how active of an investor you are, but partnering can mean that you go out of your way to make introductions on behalf of your investment advisor to new clients. Or perhaps you provide some amount of crowdfunding to a new company, and then take the time to share this with everyone you know because you dig them so much. The key differentiator here is the amount of time you put in, the amount of social capital you put out there, and/or a higher amount of financial capital you invest, whatever that means for you.

For me, partnering means not only investing personally, but also reaching into my network to try and bring other investors to the table. And due to the time investment required, I can only do this for a small number of companies, advisors, and/or funds. This means that I have to choose carefully when deciding to partner with someone, because I always strive to be a full partner with my support. For example, with SmartPurse, not only did I bring other investors to the table, but I also took the time to help them test and refine their revenue, build out their market strategy, and helped to bring in key advisors to fill gaps in expertise.

Sistering Up

That is the framework for how you can bring a sistering up mindset to your investments. To bring it to life even further, I am thrilled to announce recent investments into two outstanding funds, both of which focus on tech innovations being brought to market by inclusive teams, especially those being built by women of color: the WOCstar Fund, led by Gayle Jennings O’Byrne and Pialy Aditya (pictured directly below), and The 22 Fund, led by Tracy Gray (pictured in the next paragraph).

Side by side headshot photos of Gayle and Pialy

Last October, I shared (again, amplify, amplify, amplify!) a robust list of ways to invest in racial equity. But beyond sharing, I wanted to find additional opportunities for sistering up. So Rose and I dove in, learning about the many funds, leaders, resources, and tools that are available to invest in people of color. Several funds stood out to us, and I plan to make more allocations soon, but WOCstars and The 22 were two that I knew I wanted to partner with almost immediately. I believe deeply in the missions of both of these funds, I am hugely confident in the profound expertise and capabilities of the managers, and the funds’ investment themes, sectors, and stages add important diversification to my portfolio. And, as an early investor in The 22 and a top investor in WOCstars, I know that I can help bring resources to bear that, I hope, will help them to raise additional capital in an environment that notoriously undervalues and overlooks women of color fund managers. Stronger together. Sistering Up.

Close up photo of Tracy Gray

Incidentally, The 22 and WOCstars are also both part of the Ally Collaborative, a group of six venture funds that are collaborating to increase representation in funds led by diverse fund managers, and investment into diverse-led companies. While not all of the funds are women-led (five out of the six are led or co-led by women), this is a powerful example of Sistering Up. By eschewing the tired culture of competition, these funds are actively helping one another to succeed, realizing that a rising tide lifts all boats.

I will be sharing more about both of these incredible funds, as well as the Ally Collaborative, in the coming months.

So there you have it. I invite you to embrace the sistering up (#SisteringUp) framework, and when you do, please share it! Anyone who thinks that hashtags cannot create change has obviously never heard of #metoo.

I also welcome your comments, your ideas, and your commitments to do more to support each other. According to the most recent Global Gender Gap Report, it will take 135 years to achieve gender equality at the rate we are going, which is frankly about 100 years too long. And if you are a man reading this newsletter and wondering if you can join in the sistering up movement, the answer is heck yes! The more the merrier.

Love the Cartoon? Meet Liza! 

Headshot photo of Liza Donnelly

I met award-winning cartoonist and writer Liza Donnelly when we both gave a TED Talk at the 2010 Ted Women Conference. Nearly a decade later, our paths crossed again while we both were serving on the Advisory Council for the Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College. In the process of getting to know each other and becoming friends, a collaboration was born. I am absolutely delighted to be sistering up with Liza, who will be creating an original drawing for each newsletter. We are also working on a book together on women and money, so please stay tuned for more updates on that project!

Liza has been drawing for The New Yorker Magazine for over 40 years, and she has also been a contributor for The New York Times, CNN, and CBS News, to name a few. She is the author/editor of several books, including the highly acclaimed Women on Men. Liza is also the creator and pioneer of live drawing journalism, and in recent years has covered protest marches, inaugurations, political national conventions, and entertainment award shows.

To find out more about Liza and her work, please click here. If you are on instagram you simply must follow her. @LizaDonnelly. #SisteringUp with Liza Donnelly.

The Lost Art of Connecting

As published on April 27th, 2021 on LinkedIn Influencers.

I am what you might call a “people person”. I love meeting new people, making introductions, and as much as I can, helping others. I am also what Susan McPherson, the author of a new book called The Lost Art Of Connecting – The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships, might call a super connector. It takes one to know one Susan.

As two super connectors anchored to New York City, it is not surprising that we met each other over a decade ago. Though we can’t remember the exact occasion, we are quite sure that the introduction was made by a mutual friend and the cofounder of Apolitical, Lisa Witter. Another a super connector. Susan suggests in her book that you always try to circle back to the person who made the introduction in the first place, so in case I did not thank you previously Lisa, thank you!

 

Of course I had to write about Susan’s new book, and of course I recommend that you purchase it, as it is filled with knowledge garnered from a lifetime of building relationships.

On to the interview.

Susan, you are the ultimate connector, so it is not surprising that you would choose to write a book about it. But why this book, and why now?

One would think I wrote this book as a result of living socially-isolated for the last 12 months, but actually the book’s thesis was created long before the pandemic. I had started to witness, like many of us, that we were relying too heavily on technology and social media for outreach, and measuring success by number of followers, clicks, and likes, without a lot of the benefits of real, meaningful connection that comes from building and retaining and deepening relationships. I still love the old-fashioned outreach of picking up the phone, writing letters and sending them off in envelopes, and (pre-pandemic) hosting of gatherings, and that method has served me well in both my personal and professional life. For years, friends would ask when I was going to share that methodology, so I decided to write a book… and then COVID-19 hit. While it might seem counterintuitive, this topic of meaningful connection is more relevant than ever, and we need to discuss how to best utilize those technological tools as an aide, not a crutch, to our communication—especially at this moment as we prepare to re-emerge from months of quarantine.

In the process, I believe we’ve all learned a great deal about ourselves this past year, and we’ve realized just how important our meaningful relationships truly are. As we are reflecting on passing the one year mark of the pandemic and look forward to hopefully reconnecting in-person in the coming months, my book is a roadmap for stepping back in with intent, care, and compassion.

You interviewed so many people about connecting. Can you share a few of your favorite take-aways from those interviews?

I am so grateful to the many amazing people who agreed to be interviewed for this book, including Jamia Wilson, Tiffany Dufu, Morra Arons-Mele, Adam Grant, and so many more.

Tiffany (founder of The Cru) shared very specific tips/ideas for breaking out of our echo chambers, which in the current social media platforms we participate in, is extraordinarily challenging. If we only hear from people like us, we are never going to truly grow and expand our minds. And Morra shared that much of her career was built off of a random connection she made with Lisa Stone, one of the founders of BlogHer. Morra explained that we should never discount the random people we meet along the way in life. They could have lasting implications. A 1973 study actually showed that 82% of those surveyed found their jobs through a contact rarely or occasionally communicated with.

I am so in to saying hello to random people by the way, and indeed, I have made some wonderful connections that way. I love how you suggest doing that in your book. You present a methodology, Gather, Ask, Do. Can you expand on what this is and why it is so effective?

I’m often asked how I built so many meaningful connections in so many communities over the years, and I realized that there was a framework to it.

First, “Gather”. Assess internally what it is you are hoping to achieve, find, learn, or secure, and then determine the channels, communities, and organizations you can do that with. Then “Ask”, which is when you develop the means to have meaningful conversations in which you can learn about the people you are interacting with. And do your best to listen so you retain what they share. Once you do that, you will have the tools you need to move into the “Do” phase, which is the actionable stage. It is focused on the art of the follow-up and finding ways you can be supportive and helpful, and then in turn you become someone who is reliable, dependable, and trustworthy.

What do all of us need to know about connecting?

Connecting is like a riding a bike. It might feel rusty at first if you haven’t done it in a while, but with a little practice, fine tuning, and leading with how can I support or help, it will become easier and more natural. Connecting on this level—in meaningful ways—truly does make the world a better place.

Indeed it does. Thank you Susan.

To order The Lost Art of Connecting, please click here.

Photo with me, Susan, Farai ChideyaAmy Richards and Lisa Yancey.

She Invests #7: Financial Activism

A photo of a group of activists posing with their signs
©Amazon Watch

Welcome to She Invests, a monthly newsletter on women, money, and investing. This is newsletter #7! If you have not seen the first six, please click hereherehereherehere, or here. Thank you for reading and sharing. So far 16,000+ subscribers and I thank you all! If someone is sending this to you, please subscribe.

If you have been reading this newsletter or any of my other articles, you know that I am all about how you can use your financial resources (what you spend/invest/give) in alignment with your vision and values to create positive change. I call it financial activism. Every person can engage in financial activism, and in fact, you already do. How so? Think about it this way. Each time even a single dollar travels from your possession to someone else’s, it is a transfer of financial power. If you buy a coffee from Starbucks, you are supporting that company and what it stands for. If you shop at Walmart for your food versus your locally owned grocery store, same thing. Of course, it isn’t feasible to research every single thing we do with our money, so the invitation is to just do something. And then do something more. It is all about knowledge and intention.

In time, via this newsletter and a platform I am working on building, I want to help you do more things, especially as it relates to aligning your financial resources around the advancement of women’s rights and gender equity. I also want to highlight other groups, organizations, and people who are doing amazing things to help make our world more safe, sustainable, and equitable. One such group is Amazon Watch. I came to know about this organization because one of my best friends in the world, Kathy LeMay, became their Director of Philanthropy one year ago. Amazon Watch’s mission is to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. I could tell you about how they literally do lifesaving work every single day in support of Indigenous leaders in the region, but that is not what this article is about. This article is about financial activism, and the work Amazon Watch does in support of our planet by trying to hold financial institutions accountable for what they say they stand for. And this should matter to all of us, because it can help inform our choices on with whom we choose to do our financial business. Read on.

Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup unveiled plans to align their lending portfolios with the Paris Agreement and achieve net zero carbon emissions. Since September, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley have all made similar pledges, meaning the six largest banks in America have all publicly committed to fighting climate change. You would think that this would be a good thing, but instead, many activists are calling this just the latest example of “greenwashing” in the finance industry. Meaning these announcements are more about bolstering the banks’ public facing reputation, with little in terms of substantial action plans to back it up. And sadly, it seems these activists may be right.

JP Morgan Chase is the biggest bank in America. According to Amazon Watch, in October of last year, they announced the creation of a Center for Carbon Transition, with the goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. That certainly deserves a shout out. The bank also invested over $14 billion in green projects and sustainable investments, the most out of all the American banks. And that all sounds well and good until you discover that they have also invested between $63b and $70b per year in the fossil fuel industry since 2016. That’s an investment rate of nearly 5x their much ballyhooed green initiatives. As a client of JP Morgan, it is my job to ask them to explain how and why they are doing both. And I will.

Amazon Watch also offers the case of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with over $9 trillion under management. I just need you to process that number again. $9 TRILLION. In January, BlackRock announced their commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and just last week, in a series of memos, they encouraged the companies they invest in to adopt “no deforestation policies, to account for biodiversity in their operations, and to obtain the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples for initiatives that affect their rights.” And yet, despite all this posturing, BlackRock has still not unveiled any sort of accountability measures, and they remain one of the world’s largest investors in the fossil fuel industry and industrial agricultural commodities linked to deforestation, two of the biggest factors in our current climate change crisis.

In a recent interview with Vice, Moira Birss, climate and finance director for Amazon Watch, was quick to point out the hypocrisy of these types of actions. “If you are putting fossil fuels in the atmosphere, you are part of the problem. With financial firms, we cannot allow investment in green energy to make up for continued investment in fossil fuel extraction and expansion, as well as deforestation,” she says. And of course I agree. But I also want to acknowledge that some action is better than no action. There are many firms that are doing nothing instead of something, and what we should want to know as consumers is who is doing the most, who is doing something, and who is doing nothing. Frankly, it is really hard to know who is doing what, and that is why we need groups like Amazon Watch to help us figure it out.

Because the thing is, Amazon Watch knows what they’re talking about. For the past 25 years, they have protected the rainforest and advanced the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. They partner with Indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability, and the preservation of the Amazon’s ecological systems. In fact, just last week, Amazon Watch facilitated an open letter to BlackRock, in which they called out the firm’s failure to respect the land rights and human rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. This letter was signed by over 80 world renowned Indigenous and local activists.

What’s amazing about Amazon Watch is that they use financial activism to hold banks and corporations accountable for their actions on climate change, and they do their work primarily through supporting local activists on the ground. And they get results. Earlier this year, Amazon Watch scored a major victory when three top EU banks announced that they would no longer include new Ecuadorian Amazon oil in their trading activities. This was a major development in the fight against climate change, and a big win for financial activism. In light of this, I reached out to Amazon Watch to learn more about how this came about.

What led to the recent announcements from some EU banks regarding oil trade financing?

This summer, Amazon Watch teamed up with Stand.earth to produce a detailed report that exposed the ways that some leading European banks finance oil trading from the Ecuadorian Amazon. Out of the 19 banks assessed in the report, the top six banks – ING, Credit Suisse, UBS, and BNP Paribas Group, Natixis, and Rabobank – account for 85 percent of all banks financing trade of Amazon oil. This is despite these banks having policies on advancing human rights, protecting biodiversity, and addressing climate change. Therefore, our report called on banks to to do the following:

  • Stop financing Amazon oil-related activities, including trade, unless adequate remediation of contamination occurs, rights to health of local communities is guaranteed, safeguards are in place to prevent future spills, and governments in the region commit to no new expansion of oil development and a wind-down of existing wells in line with global climate goals and collective Indigenous visions for the region;
  • Focus investments on opportunities in Ecuador and other countries in the Amazon and world that truly meet responsible banking commitments and respect Indigenous rights
  • Expand policies to exclude all Amazon-derived oil from project and trade financing until all Amazon basin countries commit to no new expansion of oil development and a wind-down of existing wells in line with collective Indigenous visions for the region and global climate goals.

Amazon Watch and Stand.earth have been in communication with some of the top financiers identified in the report since it was published, and in January, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, and ING committed to the immediate exclusion of new Ecuadorian Amazon oil from their trading activities. More information is available in this press release on the announcements.

How does this relate to Amazon Watch’s advocacy with BlackRock, and what is BlackRock’s involvement in Amazon destruction?

BlackRock is an asset manager, not a bank, and as such, its support or involvement with industries driving the destruction of the Amazon and our climate looks slightly different from that of banks. Instead of lending and underwriting trade deals, BlackRock invests in many of the companies currently operating in the Amazon through purchases of stocks and bonds. We know that the two largest drivers of climate change are fossil fuels and deforestation, and that Indigenous peoples are the best land protectors. As the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock (as well as other big asset managers) has a powerful role to play in decarbonizing our future. And what this looks like is no longer investing in the fossil fuel industry, and engaging deforestation-risk commodity companies to ensure that they prioritize Indigenous rights and remove deforestation from their supply chains. 

Amazon Watch and APIB (Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples, in English) have been engaging with BlackRock since 2019. We have also recently begun to engage with Vanguard, in order for their executives to understand first-hand that their investments and financing have devastating impacts on the lives of Indigenous peoples across the Amazon.

According to APIB’s research with Amazon Watch, BlackRock continues to be one of the biggest funders of Amazon destruction, holding $9.2 billion in mining, agribusiness, and energy companies that are complicit in conflicts affecting Indigenous peoples and their territories across the Brazilian Amazon. In early 2020, Amazon Watch published another report that showed BlackRock has $2.5 billion invested in crude oil companies operating in the Western Amazon. Previous research from our allies at Friends of the Earth showed that BlackRock has been the top investor in deforestation-risk commodities worldwideUnfortunately, BlackRock has yet to respond to our findings.

We believe that BlackRock has outsized complicity in climate destruction and is well aware of the violations of Indigenous rights that its investments perpetuate. BlackRock executives have heard directly from our Finance team, and from Indigenous leaders from APIB and across the Amazon, about the level of violence they face and the out-of-control destruction happening in the rainforest.

What is your campaign calling on BlackRock to do, and how have they responded?

In 2020, BlackRock hinted it would take new approaches on deforestation and biodiversity in 2021, and yet its new net-zero by 2050 commitments failed to provide any concrete measures on how the company plans to conduct due diligence on Indigenous rights and deforestation risks. This is a big gap, since “net zero” is a vague term that sometimes is interpreted to include false solutions to climate change that harm forests and Indigenous peoples, like forest offsets. Our allies at the BlackRock’s Big Problem campaign laid out several of these gaps in their analysis of this recent announcement from BlackRock.

Indigenous peoples are critical players in protecting the Amazon rainforest and slowing down climate change, so they need to be at the table to discuss a deforestation and Indigenous rights policy. Any attempt at climate mitigation or “net zero” policies must incorporate the voices, perspectives, and needs of Indigenous peoples. Together with allies involved in the BlackRock’s Big Problem campaign, we have outlined a set of principles that a policy on Indigenous rights and deforestation should incorporate.

As detailed in a public letter sent from APIB leadership to BlackRock executives in early January 2021, it has been difficult for Amazon Watch and APIB to get BlackRock to meet. The pandemic has not held us back from engaging, as we are open to a virtual meeting. Since the letter was sent, APIB was invited to a meeting with executives in charge of BlackRock’s direct engagement with companies. This is encouraging, though it’s notable that the invitation does not include executives in charge of developing the details of BlackRock’s net-zero commitment, which will have major impacts on forests and Indigenous rights, or others in charge of BlackRock’s overall investment management. In this context, we are unsure if the voices and perspectives of APIB and Amazon Watch will be listened to.

BlackRock must take action as soon as possible, as we are facing multiple crises in the Amazon right now. BlackRock is running out of time to make meaningful changes for the rainforest and our climate.

If you want to read about this further, please check out this article in Mongabay.

Now, I know that there are a lot of big numbers being thrown around in this piece. Maybe you’re thinking that this has nothing to do with you because you don’t have investment assets, or maybe you think that what you do have is too small to make a difference. And if you are thinking that, I can assure you that it all matters. As stated above, every single financial transaction we make every single day is a transfer of power. From the clothes you buy, to the food you eat, to the place where you get your morning coffee. Every single time you exchange money for goods or services, you are leveraging your power as a consumer, and that leverage can be used for good. I’ve written before about how you can use your investments to promote racial and gender equity. Why should climate change be any different?

Of course, I am very much on this journey myself, and I am FAR from perfect in making sure that my financial resources are fully aligned with my values. I am quite sure that I own some fund or some ETF that is invested in something that I would not be proud of. But what I also know is that I am trying to chip away at that alignment every single day. And here is the good news as it relates to investing, in that research shows that impact investing yields greater returns on your investment than those made without that lens. So when you really think about it, it’s a win win.

In terms of the financial services firms we choose to work with and the investment products we choose to invest in, it is becoming easier to pick ones that are transparent and accountable in terms of what they stand for. There are dozens of options for environmentally friendly and sustainable banks and credit unions. You can even search for banks that refuse to invest in fossil fuels full stop. As for any of the banks mentioned above, if you are reading this, are from one of those institutions, and disagree with what is written here, please feel free to comment. And if you want to talk to anyone at Amazon Watch, I would love to connect you. My purpose in writing this piece is to bring awareness and accountability around stated commitments, and not to shame and blame. I believe that most people, even bankers, care about our planet, and that we all want to do the right thing to take care of our world.

At the end of the day, money truly makes the world go around. And the sooner we all realize the potential contained within that, the sooner we can all start using that power to shape a better world. No matter what your net worth, whether you are a billionaire investor with BlackRock, a person with $20 in their pocket looking to open their first bank account, or anyone in between, the choices we make about where and to whom we give our money can make a difference. So the next time you hand over legal tender, I urge you to ask yourself, “How can this transaction be used to make the world a better place?” The possibility is there, every single time.