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Black History Month All Year Long, Please

Illustration by Jamiel Law

As February comes to an end, we in California are looking forward to spring, and to putting our rainy weather behind us. What we don't want to put behind us is our commitment to celebrating Black History and Black people. 

This February, like many of you, we at Nia have been observing Black History Month—the four weeks many of us set aside to recognize and celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Black people. We at Nia have doubled down on our commitment to moving the needle toward racial equity and invite you to join us in our actions.

Racial discrimination still exists at work, in government, in education, housing and across every sector of the economy. For this reason, we need more than just four weeks each winter to recognize Black History. Black History is our collective American history—every month of the year. We see that our actions throughout the year are what matter.

This year at Nia, we have focused our corporate activism on Racial Equity Audits and diversity data disclosures. Third-party racial equity audits are basically a look inside an organization to see how a company or organization is either contributing to or causing harm to BIPOC individuals and the BIPOC community broadly. An audit produces recommendations for improving the racial impacts of company policies, practices, products, and services. Diversity data disclosure is important so that the company, its shareholders, employees, and potential recruits have transparency on the effectiveness of the companys' diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Nia calls on each company within our portfolios to prioritize a Racial Equity Audit. This process entails taking an honest look at company policies and practices and reviewing company culture to see how they affect Black and brown people and communities. A first step is for companies and organizations to assess their current organizational structure. Who holds leadership positions? Who has ownership stakes? Who sits at decision making tables? Does the company prioritize diverse and equal representation?

We call on all organizations and companies to use a racial equity lens when looking at internal operations. We invite each company to investigate how the company incorporates diversity and inclusion policies broadly, and more specifically look at data and practices concerning recruitment efforts, hiring practices, retention rates across race and ethnic backgrounds, as well as promotion data for BIPOC employees.

We also invite looking at core business practices, such as products and services offered. Are they beneficial to Black communities? If not, what changes might be implemented such that Black communities are both considered and centered? 

Another action we’ve taken is sharing our Guide to Investing for Racial Equity, originally published in 2020 and updated in 2023. This step by step guide encourages each of us to review our investment policies and practices with a racial equity lens. We as a society get the economy we invest into, and thus, in order to change the status quo, we need to shift our investment criteria to an inclusive economy. As investors we have both the right and the responsibility to direct where our dollars go, what companies and projects they are funding. Do check out this updated guide and share the actions you are taking.

Shopping and eating at local Black owned businesses, investing in Black founders, and granting to organizations doing important racial equity work are all essential actions. We know that shopping from local black-owned businesses is meaningful to shifting the flow of dollars within our economy. We point readers to the US Chamber of Commerce’s listing of Black owned business guides so you can identify businesses in your area to support. While celebrating Black artists, activists, politicians and inventors, we are also highly aware that we need to do more than celebrate. Those wanting racial justice need to actually change how we are spending, investing and running companies and organizations.

For further reading, we recommend checking out the work of pastor Brenda Salter McNeil who is associate professor of reconciliation studies and director of the Reconciliation Studies program at Seattle Pacific University. McNeil's forthcoming book, Empowered to Repair: Becoming People Who Mend Broken Systems and Heal Our Communities (May 2024, available for pre-order) “offers a blueprint for how to foster healing within individuals and communities. McNeil’s work aims to create systemic change using a comprehensive model that encompasses three essential components: deep rest, deep roots, and deep repair.” You can pre-order the book from the nation’s oldest black-owned bookstore, Marcus Books in Oakland, which has been in operation for more than 60 years.

We are proud to be mentioned in Ebenezer Mensah’s recent article about McNeil: 

“One organization taking concrete steps to address racial inequity is Nia Impact Capital, led by Kristin Hull. Nia Impact Capital uses shareholder resolutions and investment strategies to promote racial equity in corporations. They have successfully persuaded companies like Fortinet, IBM, and Apple to adopt more transparent diversity reporting and eliminate the use of non-disclosure agreements in employee contracts.

Hull emphasizes the importance of investors engaging with corporations to promote racial equity and improve company culture. Research shows that diverse teams produce stronger financial returns and make better decisions.”

While we understand that the arc of justice is long, we know that each step we take, and each dollar we spend or invest can make a difference in much needed economic and cultural change. Shifting investment dollars to those managers that prioritize racial equity can be first steps toward actively bending that arc. Join us.

Important Disclosures:  

The views presented here are those of Nia Impact Advisors, LLC (“NIA”) and these views may be subject to change.  This information illustrates NIA’s engagement and activism.  All information is obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but NIA does not certify the accuracy or completeness of this information. This blog article does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of any offer to buy any security.  All investments carry risk.  An investor must consult with their investment professionals prior to making any investments to ensure that they understand the associated risks. 

The incorporation of environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) considerations into the investment process may cause the investment adviser to make different investments than other funds that have similar investment portfolios and/or investment styles.  Under certain economic conditions this could cause the investment adviser’s performance for any of its portfolios, including the Fund, to be worse than similar funds that do not incorporate such considerations into their investment strategies or processes.  In applying ESG criteria to its investment decisions, the investment adviser may forgo higher yielding investments that it would invest in absent the application of ESG investing criteria.


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