Feminist Stakeholders, the Dakota Pipeline and ESG Investing

Apr 25, 2017 9:35 AM ET

by Rebecca Adamson, Native American economist, Founder and President, First Peoples Worldwide 

“The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline has implications beyond the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. It is a fight for everyone who wants clean air, clean water, and gender equality. As governments increasingly prove incapable or unwilling to protect these things, citizens are turning to the market and the market is responding.” 

The McKinsey Global Institute Report, “The Power of Parity: How Advancing Women’s Equality Can Add $12 Trillion to Global Growth” concluded that, Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge. If women… do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer. The McKinsey Report identified three elements that are essential for achieving the full potential of gender parity: gender equality in society, economic development and a shift in attitudes. According to the Report, 95 percent of company CEOs are still male and of the 22,000 global firms that were reviewed, 60 percent failed to have any women on their boards. Facing this disparity head on the Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) held the first webinar on: “Gender Lens Investing: The Business Case, Opportunities, and Action”. Gender Lens Investing is defined as “the integration of gender into investment analysis” and it makes a strong business case for more female CEOs. Panelists, Kathleen McQuiggan at Pax World and Julianne Zimmerman at Reinventure Capital, shared research on the business case for investing in women. The conclusion was that the case for gender investing has never been stronger and that companies where women are better represented in leadership simply perform better. 

At the same time, both the IEN webinar and McKinsey Report point to evidence that persistent misconceptions about women founders and leaders exist, along with significant discriminations and market inefficiencies connected to gender and race. Over the past six years, researchers and experts in the tech industry have begun to consider the effects of this gender bias. Ninety percent of tech employees are men and at the senior levels, it is 96 percent. Of the women entering the tech industry, 56 percent leave citing that they were pushed out by sexism and of the 6,517 companies receiving venture funding from 2011 to 2013 only 2.7 percent had women for CEOs. As such, gender lens investing is crucial for breaking through the glass ceiling in these companies but it’s not just within the rank and file of the tech industry that women face discrimination. As McKinsey points out gender parity requires a shift in attitudes and here again, the tech industry offers no better place to see cultural attitudes towards women than on the Internet.

Across websites and social media every day, gender discrimination exists along a spectrum of illicit sexual surveillance, creep shots extortion, doxing, stalking, malicious impersonation, threats, and rape videos. (Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly; The Unsafety Net: How Social Media Turned Against Women” The Atlantic Oct 9, 2014, issue). “Misogyny on Twitter, a report by Demos found that over a 6 week period more than 6 million instances of the word slut or whore were used in English on Twitter. Of these Tweets, 20 percent were deemed to be threatening. Originally filed under ‘Controversial humor’ the social media companies recognize such postings can be overt efforts to silence women but, so far, the sanctity of free speech is taking precedence over freedom for women to engage in on-line communities. At the same time, “When it comes to copyright and intellectual property interests, companies are highly responsive. But violence against women frequently gets a lukewarm response until it becomes an issue of bad press.” stated Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly in 2014.

Perhaps the extractive industries might not set out to perpetuate violence against women but it certainly is a widespread by-product of how they do business. Take the tragic scene of conflict, environmental destruction, and violence against women that is playing out under a national media spotlight at the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) site in North Dakota. The Bakken region of North Dakota started experiencing its oil boom back 2010. The rapid oil development brought an influx of cash and thousands of oil workers living in ‘man camps’ with time and money on their hands. The rates for murders, aggravated assaults, and robberies have tripled and rates for sex crimes, forcible rape, prostitution, and sex trafficking have increased by 20.2 percent, according to Kathleen Finn, Scholar in Residence at the American Indian Law Clinic University of Colorado. Response by the State of North Dakota to protect the women and children from the escalating oil-induced violence has been to allocate $100,000 over a 5-year period for the victims. Response by the State of North Dakota to the company, Energy Transfer Partners, building the DAPL has been to allocate over $23 million over a 5-month period for the law enforcement, National Guard, and security forces to protect company equipment. 

The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline has implications beyond the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. It is a fight for everyone who wants clean air, clean water, and gender equality. As governments increasingly prove incapable or unwilling to protect these things, citizens are turning to the market and the market is responding. Thanks to DAPL social responsibility is on every ESG investor’s radar. As of this writing, a coalition of over 150 investors representing over $1.3 Trillion in assets under management called on banks financing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to address or support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request to reroute the pipeline and avoid their treaty territory. Lead investor Boston Common Asset Management was joined by Storebrand Asset Management and Calvert Research and Management along with CalPERS and the Comptroller of the City of New York in a statement about reputational and potential financial risks for banks with ties to DAPL. The investors are concerned Banks may be implicated in conflict and controversies related to the pipeline and could face long-term brand and reputational damage resulting from consumer boycotts and possible legal liability.

Read the rest of Rebecca's powerful article here- www.greenmoneyjournal.com/april-2017/feminist-stakeholders-dapl-and-esg-investing/

Cliff Feigenbaum, founder and managing editor
GreenMoney Journal and GreenMoney.com
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