Like so many people around the world, we at Aperio Group have observed in horror and outrage the murders of George Floyd and so many others. Watching the protests against the cancer of racism in the United States, I wonder how my father, who died a year ago, would have reacted. He had marched in Selma in 1965, been arrested with the Freedom Riders in 1961, and traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to help rebuild an African-American church that white supremacists had burned down. I imagine he would have felt heartbroken at the current tragedy but also hopeful at so much of the country pouring out to try to prevent this particular murder from becoming just another dispiriting statistic. Having witnessed a lot of change over his 95 years, he might have been heartened that so many companies have for once joined in condemning the systemic and deeply embedded racial prejudice against African-Americans in our country.
As we all consider how to respond with integrity nearly 60 years after my father’s actions, what specific steps will Aperio be taking? First, we’ll be making an immediate donation of $50,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Second, we are developing plans for the next few months, not yet clearly finalized, on improving diversity in our recruiting and possibly developing internship or scholarship programs with a similar goal. Finally, we’ll increase our focus on racial diversity in our role as an asset manager, such as work we’ve done pushing companies and data providers to create data sets on racial and ethnic minorities on boards. We also plan on exploring the possibility of voting shares (for both ESG and non-ESG clients) and shareholder initiatives to further push corporate behavior in the direction of racial fairness, which we believe is good business too.
We don’t fool ourselves by presuming such steps will effect change on a grand scale, but it’s where we think we can have impact. In fact, we’ve been concerned that even making any statement or donation can appear disingenuous, since such public gestures come cheap, whereas real change will take a long time and require much effort and perseverance, especially over the next few years after the country’s attention may shift elsewhere. We hope that we and other firms across all industries can live up to the commitment to change so many of us are embracing now and move toward helping to eradicate the racism in our homeland that has persisted no matter how many times it has been declared as vanquished. We are all in this together, and all have a role to play in this journey.
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