Pathways to Integrate Reconciliation & Responsible Investment

November 11th, 2021 | Dr. Diane-Laure Arjaliès, Julie Bernard, Bhanu Putumbaka

Diversity has become a central theme in the investment industry. In 2018, SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research and Education) and NATOA (National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association) joined their efforts to create the Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative (RRII) . The RRII has been spearheading the efforts to integrate reconciliation and responsible investment. In 2020, the Responsible Investment Association (RIA) of Canada, started an initiative to lead investors managing more than $4 trillion in assets to sign a statement to make commitments to promote Diversity & Inclusion across their organizations and portfolio companies.

Despite those recent initiatives, few Canadian RI policies or reports of institutional investors make references to Indigenous peoples. Beyond the recognition of Indigenous rights within due diligent processes linked to the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), Indigenous Peoples and their economic, social, and environmental well-being are relatively absent from the conversations in the Canadian Responsible Investment (RI) industry. [Editor’s Note: The recent Canadian Investor Statement on Climate Change signed by 36 investors managing $5.5 trillion in assets emphasizes the importance of Indigenous rights for investors.]

Faced with this observation, we decided to investigate further. As a research team at the Ivey Business School, Western University, we studied the practices of the industry for one year through interviews with stakeholders, observation of industry conferences, and documentary evidence. Our results are available in a new report that sheds light on the significant differences in the level of awareness of, and action on, Indigenous rights and reconciliation among the Canadian investment management firms.

This report aims to create a safe space to engage the Canadian responsible investment industry in the process of truth and reconciliation. It outlines the current relationships between Indigenous peoples and the RI industry in Canada and offers recommendations to build bridges and make progress towards reconciliation.

We examine how the Canadian RI industry specifically embraces six sub-themes deemed key to the process of economic reconciliation, to wit: 1) Recognition of Indigenous rights; 2) Diversity and inclusion (of Indigenous peoples); 3) Building a thriving Indigenous economy through partnership; 4) Fiduciary duty and Indigenous peoples; 5) Building an inclusive and just transition to a low-carbon economy through partnership; and 6) Indigenous environmental stewardship. We systematically analyze the inclusion of each theme in each step of the investment chain, from asset owners, asset managers to investee companies, and service providers.

Responsible investors usually assess Indigenous rights and concerns through the lens of risk management. While risk management is a critical component for investment decisions, it limits opportunities for the RI industry to contribute to reconciliation or the building of opportunities for all peoples to achieve their full potential and shared prosperity. The report recommends several steps that actors across the investment chain could implement to progress on the path of reconciliation. Possible actions include Investing in Indigenous-led (impact) investing products, Implementing comprehensive policies on Indigenous representation among employees and boards of directors, designing procurement policies for Indigenous businesses or educating and engaging Indigenous investors on proxy voting that relates to Indigenous rights, By engaging in reconciliation, the Canadian RI industry can lead the integration of ‘I’ in ESG and transition towards a climate-resilient and inclusive economy worldwide.

We believe that economic actors must address social inequalities and systemic racism to contribute to inclusive growth that creates opportunities for all. Including Indigenous peoples in the allocation, distribution, and valuation of capital is an essential step towards this endeavour. In addition, inclusive companies that manage ESG risks and improve outcomes for Indigenous peoples are also better investments.

The report is also an example of the current Canadian business schools’ efforts to respond to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC)’s Call to Action 92, which offers a roadmap for the business community to think about and practice reconciliation. Historically, Canadian universities played a central function in the processes of colonization. Indigenous peoples have had limited access to the universities and still, to this day, are underrepresented, under-resourced and neglected by researchers in the university system.

As business school scholars, we recognize there is much work to be done, and that the practice of reconciliation requires sustained commitment to not only actions, but also a sustained practice of confronting the places within current financial systems and sectors where Indigenous voices are absent. The following report not only maps out the spaces and places within the Canadian responsible investment industry where Indigenous voices are needed, but also offers a necessary roadmap for how this sector and its partners may begin to walk a path toward honouring truth and practicing reconciliation.

The report can be found at

RIA Disclaimer
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view or position of the Responsible Investment Association (RIA). The RIA does not endorse, recommend, or guarantee any of the claims made by the authors. This article is intended as general information and not investment advice. We recommend consulting with a qualified advisor or investment professional prior to making any investment or investment-related decision.


author's photo

Dr. Diane-Laure Arjaliès

Associate Professor
Ivey Business School, Western University

Dr. Diane-Laure Arjaliès is Associate Professor at the Ivey Business School, Western University. An ethnographer, she aims to push the boundaries of knowledge and practice by investigating how the fashioning of devices and collective actions can help transform financial markets towards sustainable development. She is currently designing Indigenous-led conservation finance instruments to channel capital towards protecting ecosystems. A settler of French origin, she moved from Paris to what is now called Canada in 2015.

author's photo

Julie Bernard

PhD candidate
Université Laval

Julie Bernard is a PhD candidate in management at Université Laval. Her doctoral thesis is on shareholder engagement strategies (mainly proxy voting) in a responsible investment context and on stakeholder engagement in materiality assessment in sustainability reporting. She was awarded Bertram Scholar by the Canadian Foundation for Governance Research. She was selected for the 12th Ivey/ARCS PhD Sustainability Academy which, on annual basis, convenes promising PhD students and senior researchers championing path-breaking research on sustainability. Before her doctoral studies, she worked for several years in responsible investment at Groupe investissement responsable (GIR) Inc. She was involved in this community through the Initiative finance durable-Finance Sustainability Initiative (IFD-FSI, now part of finance Montréal).

author's photo

Bhanu Putumbaka

Independent Consultant

Bhanu Putumbaka is a graduate of Ivey Business School. She started her career in capital markets, working for the investment banking division of one of the largest banking groups in India. Since graduating from Ivey, her curiosity and passion for sustainable finance has led her to become an independent consultant, collaborating on projects with the Ivey Business School, the Multi-Capital Performance Research Centre at Audencia Business School, MaRS Solutions Lab and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).