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Northwestern Mutual Sustainability and Social Impact: Delivering Financial Security and Expanding Financial Access

We exist to relieve Americans from financial anxiety and invest in improving financial access to help reduce the wealth gap.

Northwestern Mutual Sustainability and Social Impact: Delivering Financial Security and Expanding Financial Access

We exist to relieve Americans from financial anxiety and invest in improving financial access to help reduce the wealth gap.

Published 04-26-24

Submitted by Northwestern Mutual

Originally published in Northwestern Mutual 2023 Sustainability and Social Impact Report

Driven by our mission to improve lives through financial security, we’ve helped millions of Americans reduce financial vulnerability and plan and manage for a lifetime of financial needs and goals. We know that financial security is often hindered in underserved communities, which is why we’re taking bold steps to increase financial knowledge, improve access to capital for small businesses and advance the ability to build generational wealth. We believe accelerating economic empowerment delivers the growth and returns our stakeholders expect. 

A key engine in these efforts is our Sustained Action for Racial Equity (SARE) initiative, launched in 2020 by Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer John Schlifske. Through this initiative, driven by 80+ leaders across our corporate offices and network of field offices, we seek to promote multicultural entrepreneurship, supplier/business diversity and financial education. We take a long-term view while acting with a sense of urgency—proud of the results we’ve achieved while recognizing there is much more to be done to create healthier, stronger communities and a better tomorrow.


Northwestern Mutual is committed to specific initiatives to support change in underserved communities. We’re building an ecosystem for multicultural business success—increasing access to resources and capital, and furthering organizations’ willingness to spend with multicultural and women-run businesses. 

Northwestern Mutual wants to reduce barriers to financial equity and expand financial access for tech startups by supporting entrepreneurs who have been historically underserved. To address this need, each year the Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator® provides up to 10 entrepreneurs with a $100,000 investment, plus an intensive 12-week business training program and ongoing mentoring. In partnership with gener8tor, a nationally ranked startup accelerator, we’ve welcomed 30 entrepreneurs and invested $3 million to date. Participants have gone on to accelerate their business plans, raise additional funding and spark business and community growth. 

Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, our venture capital arm, in addition to investing in a variety of other startups, has a goal of investing $20 million each in women and African American/Black entrepreneurs. We look for partners who are developing tools and platforms to help us deliver the experience our clients need, want and deserve; who are shaping the future of health and wellness; and who are bringing new technologies and enhanced analytics to market.


In 2023, Northwestern Mutual added $75 million to our Impact Investment Fund, bringing the total to $175 million. The fund directs investments to increase entrepreneurs’ and businesses’ access to capital to create positive economic momentum locally and nationally; develop physical and social infrastructure, including affordable homes and improved school systems; and generate financial returns for our policyowners and investors. 

Since the fund launched in 2021, Northwestern Mutual has made 16 investments nationally and in Milwaukee, leading to further investments in 64 business owners from diverse backgrounds and creating 525 jobs across the country.

Supplier and business diversity 

Northwestern Mutual engages with a broad array of outside vendors for everything from office supplies and building materials to marketing and technology services. Through rigorous and transparent competitive bidding, we ensure that regardless of size or ownership, suppliers have an equal opportunity to provide us goods and services. This promotes fairness and equity while enriching our supply chain with fresh perspectives, innovation and expertise. We’ve also developed a roadmap toward supply chain sustainability reporting, with pilot participants beginning in 2023. 

Employing inclusive procurement practices, our program has achieved remarkable growth in the amount we spend with small and diverse businesses. We’re one of the first members of the Financial Services Roundtable for Supplier Diversity that recognizes and tracks LGBTQ+ owned company spending, and we belong to the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce to increase access to certified LGBTQ+ suppliers and businesses. 

Our efforts have created $91.1 million in total economic impact with small and diverse businesses in the Milwaukee area and $842.1 million with small and diverse businesses nationally.

group of three black men in suits smiling


We continually look for opportunities to learn from and share financial knowledge with a wide variety of individuals. Our financial advisors and representatives and our corporate employees work to open dialogues, build awareness and earn trust in underserved communities.

Programming for youth 

We recognize the power of educating young people about building wealth; it can transform communities as well as individuals. Our financial advisors and representatives and our corporate offices offer a variety of programs to connect with students at all levels. 

In partnership with the Leo Tucker network office in Washington, D.C., we completed the second pilot of Advancing Financial Literacy, a program with Howard University’s Center for Financial Excellence. The three-week program gives undergraduate students the opportunity to learn financial planning strategies and practice using related tools.

Increasing connections and collaboration 

Through partnerships with professional, community and advocacy organizations, our corporate offices and network of field offices increase visibility and connections, expanding markets and social impact. Northwestern Mutual is proud to work with and learn from thought leaders in organizations including the National Urban League and the National Black MBA Association. 

  • At the National Urban League’s annual conference, we led workshops for small business owners and presented to 900+ guests at the conference gala. 
  • At the National Black MBA Conference, Northwestern Mutual was a sponsor for their gala and for a pitch competition offering startups the opportunity to connect with investors—and to win up to $50,000. 
  • Northwestern Mutual partnered with the Chicago chapter of the National Black MBA Association on Black Think, a “pop-up think tank” on personal financial planning and addressing the racial wealth gap. 

We’ve advanced mutual goals and increased visibility in the college market and beyond as the presenting corporate sponsor of The Loyola Project, a documentary about race relations, courage and college basketball. The film has been shown on CBS and Paramount+. It has also been shown at more than 150 college campuses, more than twice the original goal. With Crossroads Entertainment, we are again bringing The Loyola Project to select HBCU campuses, providing movie toolkits and conversation outlines.

Learn more about Northwestern Mutual’s commitment to delivering financial security and expanding financial access in the 2023 Sustainability and Social Impact Report.

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Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual


Northwestern Mutual has been providing financial security for over 165 years through personalized planning and industry-leading products. The company manages over $570 billion in assets and provides insurance and advisory services to over 5 million people. 

As a purpose-driven company, Northwestern Mutual integrates sustainability and social responsibility into its operations, focusing its Sustainability and Social Impact on delivering financial security, strengthening its culture of belonging, and investing in communities.

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