NB Financial Innovation
Watch the Replay of our Google Hangout with Clara Miller: We spoke with the F.B. Heron Foundation president in a live Q&A on Sept. 30
UPDATE: Join us for the Hangout today at 2 p.m. EDT by scrolling down to the embedded broadcast below.
The F.B. Heron Foundation was created in 1992 to help people and communities at the bottom of the economic ladder in the United States to help themselves. It invests in dozens of companies, funds and organizations that advance these goals.
But when the foundation examined its equity portfolio to see if its own investments were aligned with that mission, it got some unpleasant surprises. Among the companies prominently represented in its $300 million endowment were:
- FoxConn, the Taiwan-based electronics manufacturing powerhouse (and iPhone maker) which has made global headlines over plant explosions and working conditions so poor that they’ve sparked employee riots and suicides.
- Walmart, whose low wages and cavalier attitude toward workers’ rights have made it a perennial punching bag for labor advocates.
- The Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest for-profit prison corporation and the target of harsh criticism over its treatment of employees and inmates alike.
It was hardly alone in investing in these companies. As Heron’s president, Clara Miller, put it, “Even with the best will in the world, most individual and institutional investors likely own positions in companies whose business practices undermine their philanthropic or personal values, simply because of the way these funds are put together.” Organizations from the Gates Foundation to major universities have faced criticisms over similar investments – leading some to divest from certain industries. But the Heron Foundation decided to take things a step further.
In June, Miller announced that the foundation was moving 100 percent of its assets into impact investments, aiming to complete the process by the end of 2017. “Bidden or not, intentional or unintentional, all of the enterprises that we invest in have impact that goes well beyond a financial return to an individual investor,” Miller said of the decision. “We should all, at the very least, know which enterprises we own and avoid unwittingly turning a blind eye.”
On Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time, Miller will join NextBillion for a live Google Hangout about Heron’s bold move – and about the lessons it has learned from its efforts to align its capital with its mission. You can view the conversation in this post – the video will be embedded below on the day of the Hangout. In the meantime, you’re welcome to submit questions for Miller either in the comments to this post, on Twitter (@NextBillionFI) or by emailing our editors.