Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights launched a new Workplace Dignity initiative on Oct. 6 to advise employers on how their employees are valued and treated at work. Learn More
We have been working with institutional investors, fund managers, and investment consultants for more than 10 years, updating the business community on new approaches to investing that actively consider human rights and good governance. With a network representing close to $7 trillion in assets under management, the program prioritizes the “S” in ESG—convening thought leaders from across the world and developing tools and initiatives to encourage investors to take actions that drive change in their organizations and across the industry.
Social factors—the “S” in environmental, social, and governance analysis—are often overlooked in ESG discussions due to the perceived difficulty of measuring companies’ impacts on society and issues such as justice, economic and racial equity, and human rights. Yet as protests in the U.S., Russia, Belarus, Hong Kong, Myanmar, and elsewhere have shown, these are precisely the issues that people care most about—even if corporate boardrooms often ignore them.
To close that gap, the RFK Compass Investors Program is focusing on primary social considerations that investors and asset managers should act on as they seek to achieve superior risk-adjusted returns for their fiduciaries: advocating for and protecting the rights of workers in the global supply chain; promoting equity in access to capital and career opportunities that promote diversity and ensure greater racial and economic justice.
Rights of Workers
Workers everywhere have a right to be treated with respect and to labor without fear of discrimination, sexual abuse, or exploitation. But as companies’ supply chains have become less transparent, various industries have become more vulnerable to human rights violations. RFK Human Rights recognizes the need to prioritize transparency in the mining, farming, textile, and restaurant industries in particular, where unfair labor practices, wage theft, discrimination, and similar issues often hurt the very workers whose labor makes these supply chains possible for many businesses. By being aware of these abuses and demanding transparency, investors can—and should—be part of the solution.
We know well the the long-term viability of companies is inextricably tied to the welfare of all stakeholders. With that in mind, our Compass team has spent recent months engaged in an advocacy campaign for workers to be compensated with livable wages. Together with our One Fair Wage coalition of partners, we signed an investor letter addressed to Denny's CEO John Miller urging the company to pull out of the National Restaurant Association, which has been lobbying against raising the federal minimum wage. The coalition’s shareholder advocacy—including recent roundtables with dozens of investors—not only demonstrates to investors that they can leverage their capital to benefit workers on the frontline of our society, but that doing so can also improve their bottom line.
Promoting Racial, Economic, and Gender Equity
Equity matters. It matters in boardrooms as much as it does in classrooms and on the streets when police officers stop motorists or pedestrians to enforce traffic laws. Society is now recognizing this fundamental truth and demanding that individuals of all racial, ethnic, and gender backgrounds be given equal access to capital and opportunity so that we can live in a more just and equitable world. Businesses are a crucial part of this equation, and for this reason investors must ensure that the companies they back are aware of the importance of equity. This means not just ensuring diverse representation in boardrooms and C-suites but also thinking about the impact of companies’ business practices on lending, law enforcement, education, and other areas of society where equity has historically been neglected.
Racial and economic justice are tightly intertwined. Ensuring greater equity in the flow of capital is essential to promoting greater equity more broadly. The RFK Compass Investors Program promotes racial justice by moving beyond discussions of diversity and inclusion toward building an equitable and just society for all—especially in the financial services industry.
Research has consistently shown that funds run by managers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds perform just as well as monolithic ones. Even so, racial and gender bias persists in the financial services industry, where women and people of color have a hard time advancing their careers and realizing their true potential. And consumers of financial services often find themselves being treated differently based on their racial and ethnic backgrounds.
RFK Compass has identified four steps investors can take to help promote racial and economic justice. In 2021, we hope to build on this by promoting greater discussion of racial justice across all our programming so that the investing community can identify additional solutions to these problems, which—as the events of 2020 have shown us—are now firmly on the agenda.
Share Our RFK Compass Investor Action Plan
Meaningful progress towards racial equality requires the participation of the investment community.
Track Corporate Commitments to Racial Justice
See how some of the largest U.S. companies compare when it comes to addressing racial inequity.
The RFK Compass Advisory Committee brings together a highly respected group of institutional investors, asset managers, and human rights academics to develop and present valuable content for achieving superior risk-adjusted returns while having a positive impact on society. Learn more.
Meet Our Experts
José E. FelicianoManaging Partner and Co-Founder, Clearlake Capital Group; Co-Chairman, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Addressing Workplace Racism With Intentionality
Boosting diversity and inclusion for investors
The launch of the Leap Initiative
Bettering the lives of Black Americans through business
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Compass Investors work with Adasina Social Capital to demand racial justice focused investments with an eye on systemic change.
ICCR (Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility)
Leveraging equity ownership in some of the world’s largest and most powerful companies, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights works with ICCR to identify and mitigate social and environmental risks resulting from corporate operations and policies.
The NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights serves as a partner of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, together sponsoring and leading discussions and workshops convening business thought leaders from around the world to focus on companies addressing human rights challenges in business operations.
One Fair Wage
As members of the nationwide One Fair Wage Coalition working nationwide to end subminimum wages, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights takes part in policy advocacy, voter engagement, worker and employer organizing, and culture shift activities to ultimately lift millions of tipped workers out of poverty nationwide and engage them in the political process.
Four steps to fight economic and racial injustice
FOR MORE PERSPECTIVE
CAMPAIGN—Funds for Freedom
Working with Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp, we’ve invested $1 million to bail people from jails at the height of the pandemic, sparing hundreds from the unjust cruelties of pretrial detention.
CAMPAIGN—Mass Bail Out
Explore Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy of pushing for quality education for all through the work of Ruby Bridges and Aaron Maybin.Learn More
The history of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is closely tied to the rights of the farmworker movement. That work continues today and is explored in this lesson plan.Learn More
With public accountability comes a greater commitment to human rights and social equity in the investment process.Learn More
Help Us Protect Human Rights
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