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ESG Advocates Have Unhinged Priorities

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Eduardo Verdugo

Editor's note: This piece was co-authored by Linnea Lueken.

Without quick action, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scoring frameworks will become hopelessly embedded in our daily lives, and the people who push ESG don’t give a hoot about our well-being.


To those still unfamiliar with the ESG movement, it is, at its core, a mechanism by “which a cabal of ideologically aligned influential interests working through unelected supranational organizations are attempting to ‘reset’ the global financial system to their advantage.” Circumventing national sovereignty, free markets, and individual rights, global government organizations, the embedded bureaucrats staffing them, and the governments that fund and compose their membership are working with international corporations and financial elites to alter traditional financial methods of assessing risk and allocating capital and credit. Under an ESG system, companies, and likely soon individuals, will be assigned arbitrarily determined ESG social credit scores, which financial institutions, investment portfolio managers, and Big Tech could use to guide investment choices, decisions about who can participate in banking or get business licenses, and who can engage on social media platforms. Basically, ESG is a backdoor to a social credit score, encouraged by government, and typically imposed through regulations.

ESG is particularly interested in social justice and fossil fuel divestment, and a score can be given to your business whether you want one or not.

Companies (and eventually individuals) that do not achieve a high ESG score can be punished; banks may refuse to provide loans to, or limit capital investments available to the company. There may also be limited access to tax credits, insurance, grants, and other kinds of contracts. People with low ESG scores could also be banned from social media outlets.


Although the ESG investment framework is pitched as a caring, environmentally conscious alternative to traditional revenue-focused investment, it is actually a weapon of the deranged, prioritizing the pursuit of “woke” political ends over advancing human welfare.

Take, for example, the reaction of one analyst of a “risk intelligence” company called Maplecroft, to a recent violent coup attempt in the small island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe. In an interview with Rigzone, the analyst said “[t]he coup attempt is incredibly damaging for the country’s political and ESG credentials, and will likely deter investors in the nascent oil and gas industry[.]”

Four people are reported dead, the coup was thwarted, but an investment fad is at the top of some experts’ minds.

To regular people, this is insane—but to world leaders in government and CEOs of multinational corporations, ESG is the future. At the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), the message was clear: fossil fuel use in particular has to go, and financial institutions should enforce it.

Fossil fuels and their derivatives have lifted much of the world out of extreme poverty, have vastly improved crop yields, help get clean water and transportation to the most remote regions, aid in developing medicines, provide inexpensive and clean heating, air conditioning, and thousands of other things that we take for granted. More than 4,000 items and products in everyday use in developed, and many developing countries alike, either contain fossil fuels as a necessary component, or are wholly derived from fossil fuels. Even for essential products not derived from fossil fuel, they are often developed, manufactured, and delivered through technologies that rely on fossil fuels. A strictly enforced ESG effort would halt this opportunity and development for poor nations, regardless of their political stability.


However, the damage borne by ESG won’t stop in poor nations. By limiting investments for oil and gas operations domestically, it will also continue to keep energy prices high, undermine economic growth, and leave the United States dangerously dependent on foreign sources of energy and technology.

And it’s getting worse. New regulations from the Biden administration allow ESG considerations to be a factor in your 401(k) management, and your employer can invest your money into an ESG fund as the default option.

The vast majority of people who invest in the markets, whether as individuals or as part of a private or public pension, do so in the hopes of maximizing returns to provide for a secure retirement, one that provides them the ability to not simply survive but thrive and enjoy some modicum of freedom to pursue their post-retirement dreams. By allowing ESG to be a consideration in banks, investment managers, and stock portfolios goals, the government is sanctioning these financial elites to use other peoples’ money to pursue their self-selected social and environmental goals. Under ESG, the government is undermining the fiduciary standard of using clients’ money to pursue profit as the sole legal guideline in order to maximize return to their client investors; and replacing it with whatever social or environmental goals the banks and fund managers think people should be pursuing.


BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management company, with more than $10 trillion under its control, is just one of many companies pushing ESG. Some colleges are creating curriculum for aspiring sustainability busybodies. To give you an example of the kind of people these careers attract, one sustainability investment website put together a list of ESG jobs, including one that contains the telling opening line, “[h]ave you ever wanted to be a bodyguard but lacked physical strength? If so, an ESG career path may be your second chance.”

Fortunately, it is not all doom and gloom. Some states have passed laws barring financial firms that have an ESG-focus from doing business with state and local contracts. Best of all, it seems to be working. After several states pulled money out of BlackRock, the company’s stock price was downgraded, and it continues to face pressure from oil producing states that are not particularly thrilled by fossil fuel divestment schemes.

ESG is the psychotic bully of the investment world, its advocates use emotional blackmail and fear about climate change to get away with becoming corporate kingmakers, while forcing companies that aren’t in lockstep with a “stakeholder capitalism” agenda out of business. They do not care that it hurts families and the world’s poor. As such, we must not let them win.

Linnea Lueken (llueken@heartland.org) is a research fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute. H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., (hsburnett@heartland.org) is the director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center.


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