At Change Finance, we understand that indigenous rights intersect all areas of ESG. Integrating indigenous rights into ESG is both a critical risk mitigation strategy and opportunity to elevate human rights and climate discussions. In honor of Indigenous Peoples' Day, we’re highlighting those organizations who have helped us learn, reflect, and incorporate indigenous rights into our consciousness and efforts at Change Finance.
We recently attended First Peoples Worldwide’s investor briefing Elevating Indigenous Rights in ESG Disclosures to learn more about indigenous-focused policy and the legal activism efforts underway to ensure the SEC is responsive to new federal rules involving climate risk and ESG standards -- all of which are critical disclosures to investors. Change Finance participated in various advocacy campaigns with our colleagues at The Shareholder Commons and USSIF to provide ESG related comments to the SEC. Change Finance also stands in full support of the coalition of indigenous and environmental groups that submitted comments stating human and land rights for indigenous peoples be a part of any climate risk disclosure to investors.
Currently, there are no universal or widely accepted standards regarding indigenous rights and ESG. The main resources for agreed upon standards include the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Index, which references the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) without advising specific action, and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which is a standard utilized by European companies in their investments.
A few key takeaways for indigenous rights and risks investors should be aware of from the conversation include:
- Focus on standards - While it is still an aspirational and not legally binding document, UNDRIP is a standard that should be complied with. The document clearly outlines the right to self determination which is significant because corporate disregard for these rights generate conflict with impacted peoples as well as greater legal, reputational, financial, and operational risks for investors.
- Indigenous representation matters - It is no secret that there is an underrepresentation of indigenous leaders in top corporate leadership positions. Therefore indigenous voices, values, and worldviews regarding environmental and social impact are missing from corporate governance at large. Efforts are currently underway to promote diversity in corporate boards where more indigenous leadership is clearly needed.
- There’s a toolkit - First World People’s Investors & Indigenous Peoples Working Group provides key talking points, information, and resources for investors and ESG practitioners for engagements to improve disclosure standards and practices in addition to ways to identify and avoid risk.
If you are interested in learning more about indigenous issues and ESG tools here are a few key resources that we’ve been discovering and paying attention to:
- Indigenous Sustainable Investment Discussing Opportunities in ESG from First Nations Major Projects Coalition
- Free, Prior, and Informed Due Diligence Questionnaire from First Peoples Worldwide
- Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon from Indigenous Environmental Network
- New UN Climate Report Is ‘Code Red for Humanity,’ but Joining Forces and Using Indigenous Knowledge Could Avert Disaster from the Independent Media Institute
To further our commitment to indigenous rights as part of our ESG focus, Change Finance supports Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) to amplify their efforts. IEN is an alliance of Indigenous Peoples whose Shared Mission is to Protect the Sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination & exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws. IEN’s activities include building the capacity of Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities. We highly recommend digging into their research reports, learning more about their active campaigns, and engaging with their media.
We are committed to continuing to build on these efforts to integrate indigenous rights and ESG through our product development, shareholder advocacy engagements, and corporate values.