“Every asset class has been leveraged in the growth of mass incarceration and every asset class must be a part of decarceration. We are asking investors to align their capital with our values.”

–Christina Hollenback

The RFK Compass Investors team successfully hosted its very first panel at SXSW in Austin Texas on March 11 in a room full of public and private investors, activists, city officials, and nonprofit leaders.

The conversation was led by Sancia Dalley, SVP, Strategic Partnerships and Investor Engagement, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. Joining the panel were Marcela Pinilla, Director of Sustainable Investing for Zevin Asset Management and Christina Hollenback, Founder and CEO at Justice Capital.

The speakers highlighted the revealing gap between the public persona advanced by corporations and the lack of action in supporting local community stakeholders for racial, social,and environmental justice.

Specifically, the panel touched on the move to end the construction of private prisons at the expense of taxpayers. Hollenback spoke to her activist work in building a wide-spanning coalition to take the fight to destructive policies. As previously noted in a CNN Op-Ed co-authored by Dalley and Hollenback, Alabama politicians have unapologetically attempted to perpetuate the racist carceral system by using taxpayer dollars and covid relief funds.

Predominant in the conversation were recent trends in executive compensation, contrasted by a lack of investment in workers and communities to support socioeconomic equity and growth. As an asset manager, Pinilla spoke to the unique ability of her work to influence corporate responsibility through the filing of shareholder proposals.

“The CEO of Kroger is making 900x the median salary of his workers… 900x! As a shareholder, it is hard to justify this enormous earnings disparity when a significant portion of Kroger’s workers rely on government assistance and are food insecure. Shareholders have a role to play in ensuring that publicly traded companies recognize the value of a fair wage, good benefits, and quality jobs for workers. That’s why we’re using our investor voice to help raise employee input to the board level.”

–Marcela Pinilla

Moreover, the panel called attention to the disparate impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people – oftentimes frontline workers laboring for large companies in the middle of the pandemic. These communities were instrumental in sustaining basic services during the height of the pandemic, but have been consistently left out in regard to investment solutions.

“People who are the most impacted are those who are not making the decisions and they don’t have control over where capital flows.”

–Sancia Dalley

Looking forward, the speakers acknowledged that large companies are taking proactive measures . Ultimately, more momentum is needed to generate an industry-wide adoption of these community-oriented principles.

Our SXSW session was also accompanied by two intimate networking opportunities for investors. A networking happy hour was hosted in conjunction with partner The Investment Diversity Exchange (TIDE), which brought together the institutional investment industry for a night of great conversation, connections, and pickleball! Directly following the Friday afternoon session, the RFK Compass Investors team was joined by friends new and old for a cocktail hour over light fare. The conversations were immersive and vibrant, and we are incredibly grateful for our deep-spanning network of wonderful people!

From all of us at RFK Compass: thank you so much for your support, and see you next year in Austin!

About Compass

RFK Compass Investors informs investment decision-makers on the human rights issues they need to consider during their investment process as they seek superior risk-adjusted returns. With a network of investors who collectively control close to USD $7 trillion of assets under management, we provide tools, mobilize campaigns, and facilitate connections to support investor actions across labor and supply chain, the “S” in ESG, diversity of people and capital, and the protection of civic space. We believe that investors can earn alpha and leverage their investment dollars in support of a just and equitable world.