The National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association (NATOA) and the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) are mobilizing institutional investors as allies with Indigenous peoples to build a vibrant Indigenous economy. Their joint initiative, the Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative, is bringing Indigenous values and teachings to investing and portfolio management.
“The Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative partnership is an example of a partnership born out of the Reconciliation movement,” says Mark Sevestre. Sevestre is Mohawk and a resident of Six Nations of the Grand River. He leads the initiative in partnership and is also one of the founders of NATOA, which was created to be a go-to source of information for Indigenous communities setting up trust funds. A formalized network of First Nations trust managers, trustees, community leaders, and non-Indigenous service providers was necessary to provide education, capacity, and knowledge to a community of investors and fund managers operating within the Indigenous economy.
NATOA’s vision is to be a “highly professional and relevant resource for Indigenous Peoples in becoming self-sustaining and vital economic communities.” For a long time now, Indigenous communities have been settling land and treaty claims, negotiating impact benefit agreements, and starting and growing profitable businesses. The wealth created from these activities is often put into trusts and other funds where they can be managed and grown for the benefit of current and future generations. The funds provide the means to build healthy, resilient, and prosperous communities.
But even as Indigenous communities have increasingly sought to invest their resources, there remains a significant disconnect between the investment world and the Indigenous economy.
Investors don’t really understand Indigenous communities, and Indigenous communities don’t always feel comfortable speaking up as investors themselves or don’t know how to exercise their rights as shareholders to make themselves heard. The challenge is to educate everyone to know how to relate better and to educate communities on how to use their power within the finance ecosystem.”
This is where NATOA and SHARE come in. Through national conferences, online trustee training, and regional workshops, NATOA has provided critical education and capacity to Indigenous communities and trust managers. Similarly, SHARE provides shareholder advocacy, research, and education to investors and companies to improve policies and practices related to Indigenous peoples as partners, employees, and rights holders. Their work ensures that investments and corporate actions are continually contributing to the ongoing wok of reconciliation.
In 2018, NATOA and SHARE launched the Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative (RRII) with the goal of further aligning investment and financial management with Indigenous priorities and values.
“The objective of the RRII is to assist Indigenous communities in investing their money in a manner that is consistent with the traditional and cultural values they’ve lived and survived by for as long as they’ve been here,” says Sevestre. “We’re helping Indigenous people speak up and exercise their rights as shareholders in corporate world. That leads to better business for everybody.”
“RRII works with Indigenous decision-makers to ensure their rights, values and aspirations are reflected and upheld in their investment policies and practices including their relationships with advisors and asset managers. In addition, we are mobilizing Canadian institutional investors—guided by Indigenous investors and other Indigenous-led organizations—to use their voices and their capital to promote positive economic outcomes for Indigenous peoples though employment, investment, support for Indigenous entrepreneurs, increased partnerships with Indigenous communities, and respect for Indigenous rights and title.”
To date, the initiative has trained 288 people through their regional trust workshops and has helped 15 companies establish new Indigenous rights policies, cultural competency training, and targets for Indigenous procurement. It’s also produced a lot of important research and resources on Reconciliation investing. For their work, NATOA and SHARE were honored with the 2020 Responsible Investment Association Marketed Investment award.
Sevestre’s message to other innovators seeking to further the emerging $100 billion Indigenous economy is “not to overlook the opportunities Indigenous communities and Indigenous entrepreneurs can bring to the table. Funding and financing are part of the equation, but providing the opportunity to partner with, procure from, or promote Indigenous peoples will spark economic growth in Canada for the benefit of all Canadians.”
To learn more about the Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative, visit https://