September 23, 2016

Migrant Lens Investing

What is migrant lens investing?

Migrant lens investing is a process that incorporates migrant issues into responsible investment and impact investment analysis to enhance investment decision-making. Like a gender lens, a migrant lens can help investors to gain new perspectives and to identify new sources of risks and opportunity across all of their investments and across asset classes.

Financial institutions, including credit unions, banks, foundations and pension funds, are paying increasing attention to the societal impacts of their lending and investment decision-making. Motivations and strategies for doing so vary widely, ranging from long-term investors seeking to manage societal and environmental risks that adversely impact their investment portfolios to philanthropic and community-minded investors seeking alignment between their investments and their overall missions. Against the backdrop of anti-immigration rhetoric that is contaminating political debates in many countries, it is critical that we understand how these same investors can mobilize their investments to address urgent issues around global migrant and refugee integration.

It is widely held that migrants face a higher likelihood of exclusion than non-migrants from economic, social and financial opportunities, such as access to affordable finance and employment opportunities that match their skills and education. This exclusion can have significant negative impacts on an investor’s portfolio, such as missed investment opportunities in migrant-owned or -serving businesses and poor corporate decision-making and performance due to a lack of diversity, among several others. [1] Moreover, forced migrant labour and human rights abuses of migrants pose significant risks to investors related to litigation and reputation damage. [2]

However, concern for the economic, social and financial inclusion and protection of migrants remains, in most cases, peripheral in investors’ decision-making. For example, most shareholder engagements on the issue of board diversity focus on gender only. [3]  Similarly, impact investors are increasingly focused on providing access to affordable finance businesses that provide services and products that benefit women and that promote women to leadership positions. In contrast, migrants are often only indirectly targeted by responsible investors, by virtue of being over-represented in thematic areas such as affordable housing, forced labour and micro-finance.

“Given their role in deciding how to allocate large sums of capital and monitoring the use of this capital, all investors must play a role in investing in projects that benefit migrants and in encouraging corporate and public policies that are inclusive and protective of migrants’ rights.” Adopting a migrant lens can help investors to identify risks and opportunities that are overlooked in their responsible investment and impact investment analysis. [4]

For more information on ‘migrant lens investing’, see here.

[1] McKinsey (2015) Diversity Matters: Companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median." [2] Share Action Investor Briefing, June 2016. Available at: [3]  Ontario Securities Commission comply or explain rules on board diversity only requires companies to report on gender diversity. [4] Hewlett-Packard has a specific supply chain policy on foreign migrant workers that aims to address their unique vulnerabilities.