The ESG Initiative at the Wharton School


How ESG investing got tangled up in America’s culture wars

Outlet: NPR
Vit Henisz on how ESG is an investment strategy, not a political argument.

A growing number of Republican politicians are moving to penalize Wall Street investors who consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues when they decide where to put clients’ money.

In Florida, a state board chaired by Gov. Ron DeSantis recently barred investment fund managers and advisors from considering “social, political, or ideological interests” when making decisions for Florida’s retirement system. In Texas and West Virginia, GOP leaders say they will block investors from state business who they claim “boycott” the fossil fuel industry. Fifteen other states are considering similar measures. And Republicans have said that if they retake Congress in the midterms, they plan to push federal legislation to curtail investment decisions they attack as “woke.”

Anti-ESG Republicans say big financial firms are abusing their power to advance a liberal agenda on issues like diversity, social justice and, especially, climate change.

Many experts disagree, saying Republicans are distorting the goals and strategies of ESG investing.