New threats to ESG detected in America’s Red-controlled states: The internal culture wars now include an unlikely frontal assault on the alleged “dangers” posed to institutional investors (state and city pension funds and the states; public financing) by professional asset managers who embrace sustainable investing approaches and who factor ESG analysis for their portfolio decision-making (in the management of client assets). Corporate sustainability leaders and savvy investment managers are asking, “huh? “why”?
The threat of “ESG” joins such current strawmen as Critical Race Theory, “Woke” Capitalism, Don’t Say Gay (in the State of Florida), the allegations of certain “grooming” books being found in school libraries, and other specious arguments set up by political conservatives and Red state public sector leaders to gain points with the Republican base. And with right-wing media outlets.
The assault on ESG is mainly focused on the prominent asset management firms that serve state and city public employee pension plans and healthcare plans. These asset management firms are told to abandon ESG principles (and their focus on the risks brought by the climate change crisis to investments) and related portfolio management approaches — or lose the state and/or city investment and capital raising client. Political leaders in such states as Florida, Texas, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Missouri are openly opposed to “woke capitalism” as they see it and have targeted BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard, and other large asset management firms embracing sustainable investment. (Consider that these three organizations have significant levels of investments in many publicly-traded companies.)
The leading ESG ratings firms are also in the cross hairs; 20-plus Republican state attorneys general also challenged ISS and Glass Lewis as both advisory firms expanded their traditional governance work to including “S” and “E” issues through a more comprehensive ESG lens. (These firms advise and provide services to public sector pension plans.)Some Red state leaders are cutting ties with BlackRock and other firms and moving to prohibit the Wall Street organizations from management of state monies (such as their public employee pension systems).Beware, The Culture Warriors Have New Strawmen: Dangers of “ESG” and “Woke Capitalism” | Sustainability Update