Approximately five years ago, Maya and I set out to fill a void we saw in the public equities space. Our clients asked for investments in public equities that offered deep impact and aligned with social justice values. We couldn’t find the solution in any widely accessible fund, so we built the Adasina ETF. Since launching the fund, we continue to pursue positive impacts for communities facing social injustice, while delivering strong returns for our investors. We aim to publish our first Adasina Impact Report soon. Subscribe to our mailing list and follow us on LinkedIn to be notified when it is released!
This month, August 2023, we celebrate Adasina’s third anniversary, and in December 2023 we will mark the Adasina ETF’s three-year milestone. Over the past three years we have been asked more times than I can recall, “What makes Adasina different?” On this anniversary we offer three key insights to answer that question, specifically for aligned investors and advisors who want to create long-lasting impact through their investments.
Insight #1: Look to the Most Impacted Communities to Define Impact
When we considered how to define, track, and measure impact, we looked at commercially available environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data and consulted with leading social justice organizations. We found that the commercially available ESG data didn’t account for the profound impact we wanted to have on racial, gender, economic, and climate justice. When we think about our ability to address social problems, we ensure that our work on these issues is directed by the communities most affected by the social issues.
The impact is not where financial professionals say it is. The impact is where impacted communities say it is.
Adasina’s commitment to social justice movements centers the voices of communities most impacted by injustice. We take a holistic approach to collaborating with social justice organizations close to the problems we want to address, to identify what public corporations can do and ensure we have the data necessary to inform our investment process and decisions. These organizations have the expertise and ability to act as thought leaders and campaign collaborators who help us bridge the gap between finance and social justice movements. With their guidance, we precisely define how as investors in public companies we can best address an issue, and how we can most effectively measure our impact. In collaboration with social justice organizations, we improve on our processes to sustainably access and apply impact perspectives.
Insight #2: Long-Lasting Impact Is Intersectional
When you spend your working hours focusing on social justice issues, your eyes, ears, and heart are constantly attuned to ongoing and evolving injustice. There is so much work to do that it can often be overwhelming.
Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” It can be tempting to start working on all interconnected injustices simultaneously when we recognize their prevalence. However, with limited resources, pursuing every area where financial markets perpetuate injustice is impractical.
Injustice is both focused and intersectional. So our impact has to be, too.
At Adasina, we focus on four pillars where we believe we can make the most meaningful difference: racial, gender, economic, and climate justice. Intersectionality recognizes how racial, gender, economic, and climate injustice often overlap and compound in certain communities, leading to interconnected challenges that require holistic solutions. For example, Black communities (racial) – primarily those led by women and gender-expansive individuals (gender) – living in the poorest part of a town are subject to over-policing, unfair wages (economic), and often face the most severe consequences of climatic disasters (climate). By keeping a disciplined commitment to these four pillars, and applying an intersectional approach, Adasina is able to drive investments and campaigns that address multiple causes of social injustice. We are grateful for the participation of our existing investors and campaign partners so far, and we eagerly welcome new partners and collaborators.
Insight #3: Try Things that Have Never Been Tried Before
From the outset, we sought to establish a fund that could deliver an unparalleled and innovative approach to impact. We realized that if we wanted better outcomes in public markets, we had to make bold strides and break away from traditional processes. That meant we had both the freedom and the obligation to try new things.
To do that, we asked ourselves two critical questions:
1. How do we best listen, and who do we listen to, so we know what impact to pursue?
And once we have that information:
2. How do we best use our voice to influence unjust systems?
We took what we learned, kept what worked, and iterated on what didn’t – over and over again.
For example, when we first considered redefining impact, we hosted in-person community gatherings to collect valuable insights from communities of intended impact. These were highly instructive for us, but limited our reach geographically. During and after the COVID pandemic, we instead held virtually facilitated meetings with hundreds of brilliant people worldwide, leveraging the internet to engage with a broader range of communities. This wider participation from communities seeking racial, gender, economic, and climate justice is invaluable to us. We are now able to glean invaluable insights without geographic constraints, and without putting added burdens on those communities. This community reach gives us access to focused, investor-relevant data that comes from those most impacted, rather than those who already hold the most power.
The iterative process of discovering how to use our collective voices to catalyze meaningful and lasting change has been one of our most gratifying journeys. As an investment firm prioritizing impact, we needed to do more than only focus on the financial performance of our fund: we needed to both lead and join others to influence a larger pool of assets in financial markets.
Leadership isn’t about doing it alone, it’s about building community.
Over the past three years we have undertaken campaigns which go well beyond the scope of operations for most financial firms, including impact investors. Our One Fair Wage and Force The Issue campaigns are perfect examples of our efforts to raise awareness among publicly traded companies and mobilize other investors to stand in solidarity with us and our Social Justice Partners.
Looking back, we are proud of what we have learned and accomplished in three short years. Looking into the future, we believe that we have only begun to discover what is possible when investors focus on creating impact as defined by those close to the issues. We are only beginning to learn how Adasina can serve as a bridge between financial markets and social justice movements. We invite all impact-oriented investors and advisors to join us in our mission to advance social justice movement goals and support long-term wellbeing for people and the planet.
Most importantly, as we take this moment to look back and look forward, we want to thank all of our social justice and impact investing partners for your trust and collaboration these past three years. We are grateful to you as we celebrate this important anniversary with you, and are committed to pursuing far greater impact together in the future!
Finally, if you’d like to stay informed about our initiatives, or explore potential collaborative opportunities, we invite you to subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on LinkedIn, and reach out to us directly.
Adasina Social Capital (Adasina) is not responsible for the content, services, or products offered by third parties. These organizations should not be construed as a recommendation, endorsement, or sponsorship by Adasina, nor are they affiliated with or employed by Adasina. They are provided as a convenience and are for informational purposes only.