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Reconciliation in investing

‘A vibrant Canada where all peoples achieve their full potential and shared prosperity’ Reconciliation Canada’s purpose statement

Dear Honeytree Community,

The investment industry has difficulty acknowledging reconciliation. As an industry steeped in tradition and hierarchy, where shareholders matter most, it is extremely difficult to shift our focus to a long term, stakeholder centred approach to investing - a necessity for Reconciliation. Very early on in our firm’s existence, the Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative (RRII) released Investing for Today, Tomorrow, and Future Generations: A guide for Indigenous Investors. While it was put together to support Indigenous investors looking at investments through an Indigenous values lens, we would argue it is essential reading for all sustainable, long-term focused investors. At the beginning of Honeytree, it was important for us to address Indigenous rights and Reconciliation specifically in our portfolio research. It was also important for Honeytree itself to work towards the Canadian Federal government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Call to Action 92 (presented below). Also, we felt our voice could play a helpful role in industry-wide advocacy. Advancing Reconciliation in Canada: A Guide for Investors became our guide, along with expert resources from the Indigenous community, including Mark Sevestre who helped us zero in on measuring Indigenous rights and Reconciliation specifically in security selection. In addition to looking at Indigenous representation within a company, especially at senior levels, we also look at a company’s Indigenous Policy, and the actions they have taken to address the TRC’s Call to Action for business: 92: We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:

  1. Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.

  2. Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.

  3. Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

Indigenous people represent 5% of Canada’s population and make up a tiny fraction of corporate leadership and even general employment in industries like banking and investing. Even at the Canadian Bank with the highest ESG rating, less than 2% of all employees are Indigenous - despite decades of work to improve Indigenous representation (and despite being the largest managers of Indigenous Trust assets). Some of the things we look for in our investment research that demonstrate a company’s commitment to the TRC’s Call to Action 92 include Indigenous representation at all levels, use of Indigenous suppliers, engagement with Indigenous groups, employee training, educational and training grants specific to their industry for Indigenous people (ideally tied with hiring), etc. Given the complete lack of Indigenous representation in the investment industry, we believe the work we do at Honeytree, and in the industry more broadly, is just as essential as looking at Reconciliation in our portfolio research. Thanks to the RRII’s guidance, specifically Advancing Reconciliation in Canada: A Guide for Investors, Honeytree’s journey towards Reconciliation as a firm has been a profound learning experience. We strongly recommend both NATOA and The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s events (and of course the Reconciliation and Responsible Investing Initiative). We have used Indigenous supplier databases in Canada and the US to research potential suppliers. We have created an Indigenous Policy with help from the Indigenous community. We have a land acknowledgement on our website. We will ensure as our team grows Indigenous representation will be a key part of it. We also encourage every single asset manager and investment firm in Canada to do the same. The investment industry would benefit from more Indigenous expertise and values, especially in sustainable investing. One of the most significant impacts we can make as an industry is equitable access and representation of Indigenous people in all parts of our business. The impact of increasing employment as well as shared business ownership in the investment industry from basically zero to 5% would be profound. As part of our work we are participating in an event jointly hosted by RRII and the Responsible Investment AssociationFrom Awareness to Action: Advancing Reconciliation as Investors on August 19th. The event is free to attend and we along with Indigenous experts and investors will share how we work towards Reconciliation in our portfolio and our business. We as a world and especially as an industry need to decide if we are going to continue our short term, shareholder driven, unsustainable approach - or if we will adopt a long term, sustainable, human centered approach that will ensure success for all. This is perfectly summarized in an excerpt from Investing for Today, Tomorrow, and Future Generations: ‘The Seventh Generation Principle is an important basis for decision making in some Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee nations. The Seventh Generation Principle sets forth that the decisions we make today should work for the benefit of the seventh generation into the future’

[Image below is a bird flying in front of a sunset on the Traditional Territory of the Anishinabek Nation: The People of the Three Fires known as Ojibway, Odawa, and Pottawatomie Nations]


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