Cheekbone cosmetics proves beauty more than skin-deep

Despite the pandemic, Jenn Harper’s start-up saw a 350% spike in revenue in 2020 by boosting Indigenous representation

Jenn Harper had spent 15 years working in wholesale food service and the hospitality sector and never dreamed of owning an internationally acclaimed beauty brand – until one night she did exactly that.

“It was 2015, and I had this crazy dream about lip gloss and little native girls. I woke up in the middle of the night and started writing out all these ideas that came flooding from the dream.”

Her first thought was to create liquid lipstick to fund a scholarship in her grandmother’s name. Harper’s Anishinaabe grandmother was a residential school survivor and suffered great trauma as a result of the experience. Harper had a long-held desire to do something meaningful, something that would make an impact in her Indigenous community. But it wasn’t enough to create another line of lipsticks; she wanted to disrupt the $40-billion cosmetic industry. Harper wanted young Indigenous women to see themselves reflected in the products they used, to feel pride and “empowered to do great things.”

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Raven Indigenous Capital helps entrepreneurs take flight

Venture capitalist Jeff Cyr is decolonizing the investment process and increasing the profile of Indigenous innovations

For a decade, Métis negotiator turned venture capitalist Jeff Cyr had a front-row seat to the government’s attempts at reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Fuelled by a desire to address systemic inequity and armed with a master’s in political studies, Cyr took on lead roles in government agencies that gave him the opportunity to work from the inside to create space for Indigenous people at the proverbial table. But the roles also exposed him to the almost insurmountable barriers that Indigenous people face in every aspect of Canadian society.

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Beyond the pale: Responsible investing firms failing to invest in people of colour

If SRI investors want to play a credible role in influencing corporate behaviour on diversity, they’ll have to look within

From Wall Street to Bay Street, racial inequities in the investment industry have been prevalent since stock exchanges were established. When a range of instances of systemic racism made headlines over the last year, SRI investors (who try to ensure their investments are sustainable, responsible and impactful) were head-down in meetings strategizing about what they could do to address racial disparities at the corporations they engage with.

SRI investment professionals, after all, collectively determine where to invest and divest trillions of dollars (US$40.5 trillion and counting), which positions them to move the dial on a variety of topics – including corporate performance on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). After a wave of CEOs pledged their solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters in the spring, investors themselves started making broad industry commitments around DEI. In June, the Racial Justice Investing coalition of 128 institutional investors in the U.S., managing approximately US$2 trillion in assets, issued a statement of solidarity with anti-racism protesters and a call to action to address systemic racism. “We are seeking to use our wealth and class privilege to push toward racial justice and liberation, including pressing large employers to be more inclusive and to pay people equally regardless of race,” said Pat Miguel Tomaino from Zevin Asset Management, one of the endorsing institutional investors.

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How to fix corporate Canada’s trickle-down approach to diversity

To ensure an inclusive corporate culture, deeper work must be done

Conversations about the need for a more diverse and inclusive corporate Canada are not new. But recent anti-racism protests have placed the corporate realm under increased scrutiny. Companies face mounting pressure to address systemic racism by diversifying their boards, but does doing so ensure that representation filters down to the executive level, and ultimately create an inclusive corporate culture?

A significant body of research has made clear the correlation between a diverse senior management team and improved company performance. McKinsey’s latest diversity study, released this spring, found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity were 36% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. A 2018 Deloitte report found that inclusive companies also outperform on customer satisfaction (+39%), productivity (+22%) and turnover (-22%). Regardless of the evidence, however, moving the dial on corporate diversity, equity and inclusion is complicated and slow going.

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