VCs and founders alike say investors should fold reproductive rights into ESG standards

The definition of environmental, social, governance investing is likely to expand

Traditionally, U.S. private market investors who adopted environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) frameworks — the very few thus far — did so to evaluate a potential company or investment on how it approached areas like sustainability or diversity.

But now, in the post-Roe era, as controversial conservative legislation sweeps the nation, some VC investors and founders believe the social definition of ESG investing should expand to incorporate pressing human rights issues such as reproductive healthcare.

Last year, Amnesty International found that none of the top VC firms consider human rights adequately in their due diligence, while an analysis in the Stanford Social Innovation Review found that out of 2,900 VC firms worldwide, only a few dozen have made a public commitment to ESG investing. That may change as private markets face more consumer pressure to compensate for government shortfalls.

A pressing issue to consider now is the precariousness of reproductive healthcare as states look to restrict access to abortion and contraception further. Expanding the definition of social investing to encompass reproductive health adds urgency to the topic, helping reframe its economic and social importance.