Asset Manager Who Pushed NFL Team Rebrand Shifts Focus
On a Friday morning in July, money manager Geeta Aiyer had cause to celebrate a victory against a very prominent symbol of racial discrimination.
During a virtual meeting, Aiyer applauded a deputy for helping win a 12-year battle involving FedEx Corp. Her firm—along with other investors and advocacy groups—had been pressing the shipping giant to end its relationship with the National Football League’s Washington Redskins because of the team’s racially inflammatory name.
FedEx had finally given in, saying it would remove its signage from the team’s stadium unless it dropped “Redskins.” The team soon complied.
“There comes a tipping point when, after a company has been fighting you, they suddenly let go because it becomes obvious to them that it’s not worth continuing the fight,’’ said Aiyer, founder of $2.7 billion Boston Common Asset Management. “That’s how we win.’’
Aiyer should know. The 62-year-old has been taking the world of business and finance to task for its role in systemic racism for longer than most. Now, as the double-whammy of the coronavirus pandemic and protests against racial injustice catapult the ‘S’ in ESG to the forefront, Aiyer and her team have hatched a new game plan.
Boston Common is planning to confront banks and real estate investors as an eviction crisis looms across the U.S., one that’s likely to disproportionately impact Black Americans and other minorities. Aiyer said she will renew pressure on nine global companies (which she declined to name) to better combat racial inequity within their ranks, products and services—and to boost transparency when it comes to lobbying.
So far this year, performance by the Boston-based firm’s ESG Impact International Fund is flat, while its benchmark, the MSCI EAFE Index, has tumbled 7.1%. Over the last three years, however, the ESG fund returned an annual 10.6% while its benchmark rose 10.2%.