How a foundation aligns its assets with the XX Factor framework and pushes shareholder engagement
A third and fourth generation private family foundation with assets of about $190 million, EFA has been activating its endowment to align with its mission for nearly 30 years. In the 1990s, the family decided to divest from investments at odds with its dedication to the environment and began working with an investment consultant specializing in sustainable investing who applied ESG screens to the portfolio.
More recently, EFA began exploring ways to use impact investing to support its grantmaking in reproductive healthcare. As part of its process for selecting companies for the foundation’s public equity portfolio, EFA instructs its investment managers to apply related, available screens such as the number of women on corporate boards and in management. It also makes private equity investments through a firm where a majority of companies are either founded or run by women.
EFA recognizes that investor information about the ways to improve the lives of women is sparse at the moment—much like environmental data was in the 1990s. The foundation actively pushes for more usable information for investors. For example, EFA deployed grant dollars (along with the Tara Health Foundation, sponsor of this report and the XX Factor framework) to fund a data collection project to source and ultimately integrate questions about how and if a company covers abortion—and other matters related to a woman’s well-being—into the Equileap Gender Scorecard. Once tested and rolled out, this new set of data will enable EFA and other investors to add reproductive healthcare coverage to its public equity screening criteria.
Meanwhile, when there is an item in the news that is anathema to the foundation’s grantmaking strategy, it can become the catalyst for shareholder engagement. For example, when the Trump Administration issued new rules expanding exemptions from the Affordable Care Act mandate to provide contraceptive health coverage, EFA’s grantee-partners filed legal challenges arguing in court that women’s access to contraception is a workforce issue, not just a social problem. At the same time, EFA joined with 34 other investors to write letters to the 50 largest employers in the Fortune 500 asking each company “to make a public commitment to continue to provide its employees with comprehensive sexual and reproductive health coverage.”
EFA also teamed up with other foundations and investors to launch the Reproductive Health Investors Alliance (RHIA), a group that is determining effective ways to improve and ensure access to reproductive health services by becoming a hub for corporate engagement strategies and creating a pipeline of investable opportunities.
Ensuring the alignment of its endowment with the foundation’s grantmaking has been a core strategy of EFA for nearly three decades. Returns on its endowment have been steady and within or exceeding all benchmarks set by the foundation’s Investment Committee.
For more information about EFA, visit theefa.org.