Rachel Robasciotti, founder and CEO of Adasina Social Capital and co-founder of Robasciotti & Philipson, has taken the idea of diversity and inclusion to a new level to address some of the most pressing social issues of the day.
In addition to her dedication to social justice as an investment strategy, Robasciotti is director of advocacy and engagement for Abacus Wealth Partners, an RIA that merged with Robasciotti & Philipson in 2021.
The advisor and executive founded Robasciotti & Philipson in 2004 (at age 25) and Adasina Social Capital in 2020. She and Adasina are 2021 winners of ThinkAdvisor’s LUMINARIES recognition program in Diversity & Inclusion, and she recently took the time to review her career path and what led to the launch of the Adasina Social Justice All-Cap Global ETF, as well as what’s guided many of her activities.
THINKADVISOR: What has led you to making social justice part of your life’s work?
RACHEL ROBASCIOTTI: My life’s work is the story of my life. I grew up in a rural community that was very poor, in a black community in the segregated part of town. … Because of mass incarceration and police brutality, three of my male family members were killed by police and many others were incarcerated. That combination of factors meant that I grew up in a family of women. … That is significant because …having a family of all women made us even poorer.
Most of the jobs went to men, and most of the jobs went to the white folks in town. … We were poorer than the poorest folks. I was homeless on multiple occasions as a kid. We were also in the most environmentally compromised area of town. … These overlapping issues of racial, gender, economic and climate justice actually really come together in really significant ways for the communities that are most impacted by them.
Many of the recent issues around social justice that have come to the fore of our consciousness in the United States … tend to be very relevant for me. … That’s the reason why I do what I do.
How should these social issues be addressed?
Those who are most impacted by those issues … have the best information on what will help them. Finance hasn’t quite seemed to get that yet. They still think that financial analysts or academics have the answers.
There are some good answers that come out of financial analysis or academia, but I think the best answers come out of the communities that are most impacted. I’m not seeing something that other people aren’t seeing. I just saw it earlier given my upbringing.
We’re all in a pandemic. Suddenly it makes sense now why everyone needs health care, how if you don’t take care of the most vulnerable, [it] puts everyone in a bad situation.
I don’t want there to be enough for everyone because I just have a big heart and care about those who are not doing well. I actually want to live in a world where everyone has enough, because that’s what we all deserve. … We’re actually impacted by homelessness and a lack of proper health care and economic justice. It changes our lives, not just the lives of those who are most impacted.
How are you using that early experience in your work?
I started off in wealth management work … at Robasciotti & Phillips. We started doing asset management to address some social issues, and Adasina Social Capital eventually came out of that work.
What we do at Adasina is we bridge investors who want to make a difference with those who are closest to the problems, who can actually give you a better sense of how to make a difference.
For example, the #MeToo movement comes out, which challenged forced arbitration to deal with sexual harassment issues. When the investment world looks at it they want to create gender lens portfolios based on … the gender-relevant data they have is about women on corporate boards, but that doesn’t do anything about forced serial sexual harassment and forced arbitration for sexual harassment.
We founded Forcetheissue.org and began to gather data about which publicly traded companies had this policy in place that enabled serial sexual harassment and began to base portfolios over where companies stood [on the issue] as well as by gathering the information about the impact on corporate environments, giving them reasons why they should end those policies.
There are many more examples. After George Floyd [was killed by a police officer], people went to corporations and wanted to focus on who’s making commitments to racial diversity. But again, that’s looking from their vantage point
If you talk to movement organizations for Black lives, like Color of Change and many of our partners for social justice … what they will tell you [is] … “That’s nice. It’s important to have representation and jobs. … But can we really focus on mass incarceration and the fact that the system of mass incarceration is what actually and ultimately put that knee on George Floyd’s neck?”.
It’s really simple. … Go to those most impacted by these issues and the organizations they start and ask what we can do as investors to help. It’s a much more humble approach than saying “Oh, we know what to do to help” or “Let’s look around and see what kind of data might be related,” which tends to be, in my opinion, an unprofessional approach. … In real life, you have to actually talk to those who are impacted.
We have to stop talking to ourselves and start talking to those communities. We can do that in a number of different ways.
How are you doing that for the issue of mass incarceration?