June 4, 2016


By applying a “migrant lens” to their investments decisions, all investors – not just mission-driven or community investors –  can better identify the risks and opportunities associated with migrant integration across their portfolios and asset classes.

There are two primary strategies that investors can use to apply a migrant lens to their investment analysis. These strategies are explained below by drawing on the concepts of gender lens investing and total portfolio activation.1

1. Investing in the specific lenses of 'migrant investing'

Access to capital: A micro-lending program that recognizes the barriers that migrants often face to accessing capital for training and accreditation needed to work in their professional field, such as lack of credit history and the high fees and borrowing costs of alternative sources of finance (e.g., payday loans). Investors could also engage firms in the financial sector to encourage the promotion of products and services that are financially inclusive of migrants. Investors and lending institutions can also support minority-owned businesses that are under-served by traditional lenders and private equity investors.

Workplace equity: Investors can directly invest in companies that promote migrants to executive-level and senior management positions and that encourage immigrant-friendly hiring practices across all levels of the organization. Moreover, investors can use their rights as shareholders to engage with companies in their portfolios that are lagging in these areas.

Products and services that benefit migrants: Investors can engage with companies to extend access to services and products that are not widely available to migrants, such as financial products and services. Moreover, investors can invest in companies that are addressing the needs of this new customer segment. Companies that offer services and products to benefit refugees and migrants can be successful at securing large government contracts, thereby providing investors with a source of predictable and long-term returns.

2. Incorporating migrants into broader ESG criteria

In the same way that “making gender a stronger, more explicit criterion within ESG analysis helps investors view other ESG issues with clearer gender considerations in mind” (Croatan Institute, 2014), an explicit migrant lens helps investors to better understand and respond to risks and opportunities related to migrants within the context of their existing responsible investment mandates.

Investors can also engage with policymakers and use their rights as shareholders to engage with publicly listed companies on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues that affect migrants and refugees. Some recent examples include:

Human rights abuses:  Some pension funds have either divested from or used their rights as shareholders to engage on human rights issues with Transfield Services, a private firm that has been contracted by the Australian Government to operate off-shore migrant detention centers.

Diversity on corporate boards and senior management teams: The Shareholder Association for Research and Education, which provides engagement services to smaller and mid-sized investors, has encouraged policy-makers in Canada to expand corporate disclosure rules on board diversity to include dimensions such as racial and ethnic diversity on corporate boards and in senior management positions.

Diversity in capital allocation decisions: Another dimension to this issue is diversity within investment institutions themselves. For example, investors that are making capital allocation decisions: do they themselves have diverse board and management? California Public Employees Retirement Fund recently emphasized the importance of diversity within its own organization.

There are several other ways that migrant integration interacts with the ESG performance of public corporations and projects. Consider for example, forced migrant labour and forced displacement of people living in conflict zones where extractive sector companies operate. These migrant-specific issues will need to be understood by all investors and not just 'mission-driven' or 'impact' investors. For other examples of how responsible investors can incorporate migrants into their investment decision-making and analysis, see Products & Strategies.


[1] The concept of “migrant lens investing” draws heavily on gender lens investing (Criterion Institute) and the Croatan Institute’s Total Portfolio Activation Framework for Gender Lens Investing.