Criterion is devoting one-third of its resources over the next 5 years to finding ways for finance to address gender-based violence. One of our goals is to aggregate $1 trillion USD in intent from asset owners to invest in strategies for addressing gender-based violence. To do this, Criterion is engaging asset holders and asset managers to sign the accompanying letter of intent as a signal of their commitment to using finance as a tool to address gender-based violence. We will list your name as part of this work and count your assets towards the total.
Why gender-based violence?
Gender-based violence is ubiquitous. More than 1 in 3 women worldwide experiences physical or sexual violence, and millions of men, boys, and gender minorities are affected by physical, sexual, and emotional abuse on a daily basis. This violence is rooted in structural inequities and power imbalances intensified by differences in class, age, race, ability, and other factors.
What is the relationship between finance and gender-based violence?
The above numbers are, in the language of finance, material. We know that the global cost of violence against women is $1.5 trillion USD. We have increasing evidence that violence has a significant economic impact on industries and companies. For example, the estimated annual cost to the average Fortune 500 company of sex-based harassment in the workplace is over $6 million USD, as employees being harassed suffer from anxiety, distraction, ill-health, and absenteeism.
Criterion believes that we have many opportunities to use systems of finance to create a future free of violence. We also know that there is desire and momentum within the financial community to find ways to address these issues. Since we started exploring this issue in 2017, we have spoken to hundreds of asset holders, asset managers, government agencies, and financial institutions eager to partner to identify and create ways for finance to make a difference on this issue.
What is the theory of change behind Criterion’s campaign?
Criterion’s ultimate goal is to move $10 billion USD to strategies for addressing gender-based violence, and aggregating $1 trillion in intent from asset holders is one part of our strategy. Aggregating intent signals to the finance and business communities that asset holders want to understand the materiality of gender-based violence and to incorporate it into decision-making.
We know the interest is there: when we speak to people in finance about the materiality of gender-based violence, one of the most common responses is to ask where they can direct capital. Yet currently, almost no products exist that allow asset holders and investors to directly impact gender-based violence.
Building a movement that makes it clear how many asset holders want to invest in the issue is necessary to spur the development of financial products, tools, and approaches to addressing gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is ubiquitous and complex enough that there is no single way to do so. Therefore, one of the goals of this movement-building is to encourage the development of a wide array of products and strategies to address this issue in sectors and geographies around the world.
Is this a divestment campaign?
No. By signing this letter, you are not committing to divest of any companies. Rather, you are signaling to the finance sector and to social changemakers that there is widespread demand among asset owners for the financial sector to take gender-based violence seriously. This in turn will spur the development of products and strategies to which we can direct capital, of which divestment may be one.
What is the purpose of this letter?
The purpose of this letter of intent is to turn interest into action. We need asset holders and financial institutions to demonstrate they are committed to addressing this issue and to influence the sector to identify and create ways to address it.
Actors within finance need to work with gender-based violence experts to better understand the patterns of gender-based violence and how to translate that information into data that can inform financial products. We need asset managers to explore creating products that incorporate gender-based violence considerations. We need ways to screen for gender-based violence in companies and portfolios.
We need to divest of companies that are actively contributing to the causes and incidence of gender-based violence. We need to invest in companies that are instituting innovative policies and processes in sectors with a high incidence of gender-based violence. We need research to clearly demonstrate the material risk gender-based violence poses to countries, geographies, and sectors, which will motivate financial institutions and governments to address the issue. The list goes on.
What am I committing to by signing the letter?
By signing this letter, you are publicly signaling that you recognize the social, economic, and health consequences of gender-based violence and are committed to influencing the financial sector to use its significant leverage to address it.
Everyone who signs the letter commits to having their or their company’s name publicly listed as committed to addressing gender-based violence through their investments, to influencing other asset owners to sign this letter of intent, and to communicating with their asset manager(s) to encourage them to explore products and investment opportunities that address gender-based violence.
You also have the option of supporting the campaign in other ways—donating event space or staff time, providing resources to gender-based violence organizations so that they are compensated for their data and expertise, volunteering your own time to research or to contribute to a working group addressing a specific issue within gender-based violence, and more.
What happens after I sign the letter?
You will receive a letter of acknowledgment and your name will be listed on Criterion’s website as a supporter of this campaign. We will send you periodic updates about the growth of the campaign as well as ways to engage peers, colleagues, and asset managers to support this work.
Sign the letter by clicking here.