Alexa Lorillard, Ava Chang, Bryan Rupprecht, Carlotta Franchin, Winston Palmeri, Ying Fam
Veris Wealth Partners is an independent B-Corp, 100%-impact focused wealth management firm that “walks the talk”. Aligning wealth with values to create meaningful impact is central to their identity and culture. Their mission to direct capital towards sustainable and regenerative endeavors is implemented advising their clients on investments across all asset classes through four environmental and social themes.
Veris engaged SUMANI to help improve their annual Impact Report, based on 1) updates to the regulatory landscape, 2) updates to reporting frameworks Veris already utilizes or should consider adopting, 3) industry benchmarking and best practices.
The project started in February and concluded in May with a presentation to the entire company, including CIO and CEO! The approach was simple – we divided (and conquered) the research over the first half of the project (sources included good old Google searches, asking professors and colleagues’ advice and talking to a peer company) and spent the second half consolidating and synthesizing all the information gathered into potential recommendations. We then refined them thinking through the implementation challenges discussed with the client. These included data availability, applicability of existing frameworks and metrics to multi-assets portfolios and to an advisory firm, not directly investing, and avoiding reporting, for “reporting’s sake”.
The final deliverable summarized recent regulatory developments and our suggested improvements:
○ Performing a materiality assessment as a building block of the company’s impact approach
○ Expanding the use of sustainability frameworks – enhancing Veris’ current use of SASB, UN SDGs and IMP and considering adopting the TCFD Framework
○ Revising the Report’s organization, adding, removing or moving sections and improving storytelling
○ Developing a Sustainability Roadmap, including baseline and targets, to signal further commitment
The main challenges we faced during the project were to narrow down a substantial amount of information and diving deeper enough to make our findings relevant for Veris. Industry practices, especially among private companies, vary widely and Veris’s independent status, 100% impact focus and advisory role make it a unique company, making the selection of “peers” and “best practices” quite difficult. But the team did a wonderful job thinking critically about the feedback received and identifying many different and relevant industry examples. That resulted in a final deliverable we were proud of and many compliments from the Veris team and management.
In closing, some of our many lessons learned are: the complex impact reporting guidance out there (so-called “Alphabet Soup”) is evolving, slowly converging and still confusing. Identifying the most suitable and meaningful approach(es) for companies, especially unique ones, is hard. Alignment to largely accepted industry standards is valuable and should be promoted. Quality and quantity of data remain a problem, but narrowing sourcing efforts to the highest-value areas, showing progress (not perfection) and adding details and context are good interim steps. “How you say it” is as important as “What you say”. Even companies that would rather focus on delivering more change have to take time and resources to not only report but also “communicate” their work, omissions may be perceived as lack of transparency and weak storytelling may limit the reach of really good work. Cute graphs go a very long way. Last but not least, SUMANI projects are fun. Join one!