October 8, 2021


Criterion Institute is making a long-term commitment to addressing gender-based violence, directing one third of our resources over the next five years toward re-imagining possibilities for using finance as a tool to effect change on this critical issue.

According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. In the United States alone, intimate partner violence is estimated to cost the economy $5.8 billion annually, while the global cost of violence against women is estimated at $1.5 trillion or 2% of global GDP—more than the costs of homicides or civil war.

These numbers, in the language of finance, are material. Like climate change, gender-based violence presents a risk to any company, industry or geographic market. And we can influence how that risk is assessed, the data investors see as valuable, and how finance professionals respond in their analyses, structures and processes.

But we can also imagine other futures. What if gender-based violence decreased by half over the next few years? How would one invest differently today if we saw that as a probable future scenario?

Over the past year—against the backdrop of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements—Criterion Institute has been working with investors, philanthropists and diverse social change experts to develop and test five strategies for using finance to address gender-based violence.

Strategies for Using Finance to Address Gender-based Violence

  1. Channel capital to companies intentionally making a difference on gender-based violence and away from companies who are the worst offenders
  2. Creating methodologies for appropriately valuing gender-based violence as a ubiquitous chronic risk that affects multiple industries, sectors and geographies;
  3. Advocating for systems of finance to treat gender-based violence as a valid, material risk and therefore knowledge and data about gender-based violence matters to the practices of investing;
  4. Structuring investments in the root causes of gender-based violence with terms and processes that align the uses of capital with the outcome sought; and
  5. Creating visible portfolios with explicit goals to reduce gender-based violence and analyze gender-based violence in existing impact investment portfolios.

In the end, our goal is to move US$10 billion in investment capital to these strategies. To do this effectively, it is critical that we engage those directly affected by gender-based violence and the individuals and organizations that have worked on the issue long-term to ensure the outcomes are informed by actual needs and aware of potential unintended consequences.
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Criterion’s approach to moving US$10 billion in capital to strategies for addressing gender-based violence consists of three pillars:

Aggregate US$1 trillion of intent to invest to address gender based violence

Criterion Institute is building momentum for using finance to address gender-based violence by having asset holders use their power to signal their interest in deploying capital to address the issue. As first steps, we are:

  1. Engaged in conversations with pension funds, individual wealth holders, foundation endowments and government agencies
  2. Intentionally engaging the community of actors who manage capital on behalf of churches.
  3. Hosting a series of convenings across North America, Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America on how to leverage the power of finance to address gender-based violence
  4. Creating tools to help asset holders use their voice on this issue
  5. Packaging the work that has been accomplished and the new possibilities that have emerged.

Engage 1,000 individuals and 100 organizations with expertise on gender-based violence to develop strategies

Criterion is radically expanding the number and kinds of people and institutions who see themselves as having the power to engage in conversations about finance. Over the course of the next year, we will:

  1. Organize a series of workshops on finance for gender-based violence experts, including service providers, policymakers, grassroots and advocacy organizations and academics
  2. Develop frameworks and tools for analysis that translate for people in finance the depth of knowledge about gender-based violence
  3. Design specific strategies that incorporate finance as a tool and build on the research and programs in these institutional partners

These experts are also sharing their knowledge of best practices, unintended consequences and what works to ensure that Criterion’s programming is effective and informed by actual needs.

Encourage asset managers to respond to demand for investment options that address gender-based violence, with a goal of moving US$10 Billion

Criterion will leverage its extensive network of asset managers to ensure they are aware of growing demand for products that address gender-based violence and work with them as they develop these products. Criterion does not manage capital. Our research and other resources will support those who do, in the following ways, over the next year:

  1. Our sponsored research platform, Gender Lens Investing and Market Risks, (GLIMR) will partner with 9 investment managers to explore risks gender-based violence presents to public debt and equity
  2. Criterion is developing a model portfolio of enterprises with a positive impact on gender-based violence with resources and recommendations for incubators to identify and support these enterprises

Throughout the year we will host design sessions with asset managers and investor networks to ensure that as gender lens investing and impact investing gain momentum, they include a focus on gender-based violence.

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