Florida: Where ESG goes to die

Published May 17, 2023

Florida governor Ron DeSantis is a time-tested warrior when it comes to fighting wokeness. As DeSantis is prone to say: “Florida is where woke goes to die.”

Now, DeSantis can also brag that Florida is where ESG goes to die.

On May 2, DeSantis signed a landmark bill designed “to protect Floridians from the corporatist environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) movement — a worldwide effort to inject woke political ideology across the financial sector, placing politics above the fiduciary duty to make the best financial decisions for beneficiaries.”

Specifically, the new law:

“Stops financial institutions from discriminating against customers for their religious, political, or social beliefs — like owning a firearm, securing the border, or increasing our energy independence.”

“Bans the financial sector from considering so called ‘Social Credit Scores’ in banking and lending practices aimed to prevent Floridians from obtaining financial services like loans, lines of credit, and bank accounts.”

“Blocks the use of ESG in all investment decisions at the state and local level, ensuring that only financial factors are considered to maximize the return on investment, protecting retirees and taxpayers alike.”

“Prohibits state and local governments from using ESG as part of the procurement and contracting process.”

And, “Eliminates consideration of ESG factors by state and local governments when issuing bonds.”

Although most Americans are not intimately familiar with ESG, they should be, because like it or not, ESG is coming down the pike. And, if the advocates of ESG have it their way, it will fundamentally alter the U.S. economy and society — for the worse.

In general, ESG seeks to replace shareholder capitalism with what is known as “stakeholder” capitalism.

Under shareholder capitalism, a company’s number one priority is to produce high-quality goods and services that customers want at the most affordable price. This is called the profit motive, and it is the essence of capitalism.

Under stakeholder capitalism, companies oblige the interests of all “stakeholders,” such as investors, owners, employees, vendors, customers, and the general public at large. According to the tenets of stakeholder capitalism, profit is not a company’s primary concern; social justice advocacy is paramount.

ESG is a central element of the stakeholder capitalism revolution because it steers capital towards companies that are aligned with woke causes, especially when it comes to the proliferation of so-called “equity” enterprises; “green” energy projects; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives; Critical Race Theory; and many other sinister leftist goals.

Incredibly, ESG has infiltrated and infected a broad swath of the U.S. economy in a rather short period of time. This includes heavyweights in the banking and finance industry, most Fortune 500 companies, and a slew of medium-sized businesses.

However, there is reason for optimism.

First, ESG is literally failing. According to the Harvard Business Review, “ESG funds certainly perform poorly in financial terms… The conclusion to be drawn from this evidence seems pretty clear: funds investing in companies that publicly embrace ESG sacrifice financial returns without gaining much, if anything, in terms of actually furthering ESG interests.”

Second, research is emerging that shows ESG is a threat to individual liberty. As my colleague Jack McPherrin notes in “Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Scores: A Threat to Individual Liberty, Free Markets, and the U.S. Economy,” “ESG has proven to dramatically reduce individual liberty. ESG eviscerates individualism by attempting to restrict personal choice and tear down the meritocratic approach to societal advancement, in favor of the Orwellian DEI policies that find their basis in the pseudoscience of critical theory. Basing financial and business decisions on these constructs restricts opportunities for those whom the elite deem ‘undesirable.’ ESG is nothing more than a mechanism for social engineering and control.”

Third, more and more, states are passing anti-ESG bills. As Harvard Law School notes, “at least seven states have enacted laws or adopted regulatory action in the form of policy statements or directives that seek to prohibit or discourage public entities from considering ESG factors when investing state resources.”

Of course, this does not mean that the war against ESG is won. This is just the opening battle.

However, it does demonstrate that there is an organic groundswell of support against the top-down implementation of ESG. And, it shows that ESG is not inevitable.

To truly stop ESG in its tracks, more governors will need to muster the courage to push back against the woke industrial complex and its ESG tentacles, a la Gov. DeSantis.