ESG is Even Worse than You Think

The ideas behind the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) movement have been around for quite some time. However, until recently, they have remained mostly out of the public eye. 

So, what is the purpose of the ESG movement? Initial ESG efforts were aimed at fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), in a push to decarbonize our economy and transition to “clean” energy.

Yet, what if there is more to the transition? What if it goes beyond energy? After all, the “E” in ESG deals with more than just “Environmental.” Issues such as land use and production agriculture must be evaluated for climate risk. What if the transition envisioned by ESG backers includes food production and consumption, mining, and timber? And that is just the “E” in ESG.

It is important to understand that the transition envisioned by ESG backers goes far beyond the source of energy, and it truthfully has little, if anything, to do with the environment. The transition being engineered by ESG backers seeks to remake our society in the vision of our utopian betters.

Most large global corporations, central banks, and Wall Street investment firms are aligned in their support of ESG and NetZero 2050. The Biden administration, through numerous executive orders, has directed all federal agencies to develop ESG goals, policies, and regulations. This unholy alliance controls nearly every sector of our economy. And if you thought the “E” in ESG is bad, wait until they get to the “S.”

Even a casual observer of the news over the past several years has seen the things that form the foundation of our society under attack. The family, parental rights, public education, the Constitution, the free market, free speech, freedom of assembly, man, woman, everything. 

Which brings us to Disney. If you do not believe that the goal of ESG is to fundamentally change our society, our individual rights and freedoms, how do you explain Disney’s latest actions? For instance, Disney recently eliminated the greeting “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls” at the Magic Kingdom to promote inclusivity. Diversity and inclusivity are very important in the “S” of ESG. Now, who can argue against diversity and inclusivity? Well, the tricky thing about ESG is that the transition also applies to the meaning and intent of words.

Disney’s “transition” started much earlier and goes much deeper, as shown in recent videos and statements. I grew up watching Walt Disney on Sunday nights. Yes, I am that old. And I have to wonder how things got to this point with such an iconic brand. When did the magic leave the kingdom? And why?

In a recent article in the Washington Examiner, Vivek Ramaswamy, author of the bestseller Woke, Inc. pointed to the role that Disney’s three largest shareholders may have played in picking the fight over Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill. Who are the three largest shareholders in Disney? BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street—do these names sound familiar? Together, these three firms own 15.3 percent of Disney stock. In a publicly traded company that is a lot.

Need proof. Much was made of the news that Elon Musk acquired a 9.2 percent stake in Twitter to become the company’s single largest shareholder. Mr. Musk was even offered a seat on the Board at Twitter. Yes, shareholders owning 15 percent of your stock have your attention.

You may question Mr. Ramaswamy’s assertion, but it is consistent with the ESG movement. As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said, “Behaviors are going to have to change and this is one thing we are asking companies, you have to force behaviors and at BlackRock we are forcing behaviors.”

If BlackRock and the other ESG movers and shakers are into forcing behaviors, do you think they simply sat by and watched Disney’s halting efforts over the past year before going all in against the Florida legislation? Or is it more likely that there was a phone call or two? As any CEO of a publicly traded company can attest, you take that call. Disney’s actions show that if these large financial institutions were not pushing those decisions, they certainly weren’t opposed. 

Now, you may wonder why BlackRock and other Wall Street firms would weigh in on social issues, parents’ rights, and public education. It will not come as a surprise if you go to their websites and read about their policies and initiatives, in their own words. It is all there, and it is time to take this very seriously.

For more proof, a recent column in Politico’s newsletter, The Long Game, discussed SOC Investment group’s latest shareholder activism efforts to require companies to undergo a civil rights audit focusing on social justice and related issues. They are having some success with companies like BlackRock, Citigroup, and Apple agreeing to conduct the audits. There’s that BlackRock again. 

On their face, it can be hard to understand the intent and outcome of these shareholder resolution efforts. On one hand, this could improve accountability for money that public corporations have given to popular causes. On the other hand, the audit results can be used to push ideology through publicly traded companies. Given everything we are seeing, which is more likely? 

One thing we do know is that as the ESG movement gains momentum large corporations will be the tool to “force behaviors” and complete the transition of our society. Shareholders in these public companies must be involved and educated. I should add that Blackrock, Vanguard, and State Street are not the actual shareholders of Disney stock. The true owners are the participants in state pension plans, 401(k)s, and individual investors who employ these money management firms to buy, hold, and vote shares with their money.

 Large corporations are being pushed by financial institutions to adopt ESG policies that you may not agree with or that run counter to your values and beliefs, and they are largely using your money to do it.

 Several states are taking steps to exercise the voting rights under state pension plans and other state funds. These policymakers and state financial officers should be supported in this effort as they face tremendous pushback. They are accused of “meddling in the free market,” but the idea of a free market has gone the way of Disney’s innocence.

How bad is the ESG movement? Judge a tree by its fruit. 

Bette Grande (bgrande@heartland.orgis a government relations manager at The Heartland Institute.

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