ADL strengthens corporate advocacy

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Last week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced that it was opening a new front in the war against antisemitism through its “acquisition” of an organization called JLens — a Jewish values-based investor network that promotes socially responsible investing while aggressively advocating for Israel.

Through its JLens affiliation, ADL — the veteran Jewish defense agency, known best for its leading role in fighting antisemitism worldwide — plans to join in efforts to fight the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel (and continue with its efforts to combat antisemitism) from the board rooms of corporations in which JLens-associated funds have been invested.

JLens was established in 2012. It advises Jewish donors and organizations on values-based investment opportunities and impact investing — an approach that considers environmental and social factors along with a focus on financial returns.

More than 30 North American Jewish Institutions have invested nearly $200 million in JLens’ Jewish Advocacy Strategy, an investment option that advocates with companies for Jewish communal concerns.

JLens has been at the forefront of exposing BDS practices within the growing impact investing and socially responsible investing fields. And it has monitored anti-Israel bias in actions by corporations and companies that rate them. It was JLens that helped lead the inquiry into the multibillion-dollar financial-services company Morningstar, which was accused of prejudice in its ratings against Israeli companies, particularly through one of its subsidiaries, Sustainalytics. The JLens allegation was picked up by a number of national Jewish organizations, including ADL and Jewish Federations of North America, which joined in discussion and negotiation with Morningstar that led to its announcement earlier this month that it will take a number of substantive steps to address numerous aspects of anti-Israel bias in its ratings process.

The affiliation between ADL and JLens promises to be a win-win combination. The ADL connection will help enhance JLens’ stature through the added credibility of ADL’s anti-bias reputation. And JLens will afford ADL access to high-level executives and members of the board at some of the largest companies in the world in order to address BDS and antisemitism concerns. Although ADL has been involved in pressuring corporations like Facebook, Unilever and others to address antisemitic activity within their companies, it has done so from the outside. Now, through JLens, ADL hopes to be afforded the opportunity to advocate from within. And given JLens’ experience in the space, it can help ADL refine its approach to corporate advocacy.

The recent decision by Adidas to separate from Kanye West after his repeated antisemitic comments highlights the potential value of the ADL-JLens affiliation. Although Adidas ultimately cut its ties with West, the move took a lot of time. With increased corporate boardroom access through JLens, it is very possible that the disengagement process with West could have been accomplished a lot sooner.

We welcome the ADL-JLens affiliation and wish their combined efforts much success.

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