The CFAP Sustainable Investing Thought Leadership Group provides a forum to advance the dialogue regarding the role of sustainable investing in today’s capital markets and beyond.  In particular, the group directs its attention to furthering an understanding and clarifying the risks and opportunities linked to environmental, social and governance issues.  

This month, Chris Bentley, Founder and Managing Director of the DECarceration Fund, and Julie Goodridge, Chief Executive Officer of NorthStar Asset Management, engaged our group with their thoughts and insights on prison labor in the United States and the affects such a labor model can have on a clients’ investment portfolios. 

Our discussion began with how prison labor policies were enacted through the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  We learned that there are over 2.2 million individuals that are incarcerated in the United States with over 4,000 corporations manufacturing goods and services using prison labor.  Julie and Chris discussed the predatory pricing practices routinely used in the use of prison labor which prompted question regarding modern day slavery.  Julie spoke about how financial investment analysts need to begin asking companies about the sources of their products.  She pointed out that many analysts screen for forced labor but many do not know that prison labor is not included in such a screen. 

Chris spoke of how investors can identify the approximately eight percent of U.S. prisons that have now been privatized rather easily but also described the task of examining the supply chain of products touched by prison labor as being extremely difficult, due to a lack of transparency on the part of prisons, corporations and our government.  It was learned that NorthStar Asset Management and As You Sow are currently pursuing the gathering of supply chain information, through the Freedom of Information Act.  It was then pointed out that the United States has 5% of the global population but an astonishing 25% of the global prison population.

Our next meeting is scheduled on Wednesday, August 26thCatherine Berman, Co-founder of CNote, and Mark Pinsky, Co-founder of CDFI Friendly America, will discuss how Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) have emerged to fill gaps in financing for economically disadvantaged people and communities and how these debt instruments can be an added benefit in an investor’s portfolio.  

If you have any questions regarding this posting or becoming part of the CFAP Sustainable Investing Thought Leadership Group, please contact Michael Cosack at  cosackm@impactwise.us.

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