How are companies reacting to anti-ESG efforts?
It’s not just Mickey Mouse that’s feeling the heat from anti-ESG efforts lately. Reuters reports that, so far this year, legislators have filed about 99 so-called “ESG backlash” bills compared with only 39 in 2022; as of April 3, they report, “seven of the bills had been enacted into law, 20 were effectively dead, and 72 were still pending.” What are they about? A number of them are designed to protect fossil fuel companies from climate-related demands of various investment funds, while others relate to “hot-button environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics like abortion rights and firearms.” Not to mention the 68 anti-ESG proposals submitted this year to date (compared to 45 in 2022) as reported by Axios, citing data from the nonprofit Sustainable Investments Institute. According to the article, about a third of these proposals relate to corporate diversity endeavors, requesting that companies “report on the ‘risks’ that their anti-discrimination or racial justice efforts pose to their business.” Several others request that companies “avoid public policy positions unless there’s a business justification” or report on the risks arising out of their attempts to “achieve net zero” or other “decarbonization goals.” What is the fallout from these anti-ESG attempts? How can companies address the growing investor demands for ESG disclosure without—or perhaps despite—creating the impression among ESG opponents that they are just pursuing “an agenda”—or “Satan’s plan” according to Utah’s State Treasurer (as quoted in Reuters)?
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