CEOs Split on ESG in Fortune Poll

Fortune Magazine surveyed CEOs about ESG and the responses were split between those who thought it was important and those who thought it was overblown. These were the questions:

As you know, there has been significant political pushback against ESG and “woke” capitalism in the past year. Which of the following statements comes closest to reflecting your view of this development?

1. This was a useful correction. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues were unduly impacting business decisions.

2. This is an unfortunate development. Business leaders should be encouraged to take into account environmental, social and governance issues in their decision making.

The answers from CEOs were almost evenly split: 48% for No. 1 and 52% for No. 2.

Alan Murray comments [emphasis added]

That suggests the attacks on ESG from the likes of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the editors of The Wall Street Journal have found their mark. I suspect the 48% crowd is also expressing frustration that activists and regulators have overreached—attacking oil companies for increasing their production in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine or proposing overly sweeping rules for reporting on “Scope 3” carbon emissions of suppliers and customers. And there’s certainly reason to argue that the acronym “ESG” is a confusing and bureaucratic framework for measuring social impact.

But none of this changes my view that the increased focus on social impact by corporations in recent years has been both a necessary and welcome development. It’s not driven mainly by political calculation or posturing, but rather by increased demands from employees, customers and investors that companies address the fundamental challenges of our society. And the best companies are increasingly finding that doing so is good for their business (and ultimately for their shareholders). 

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