ESG Investing Results: Go Woke, Go Broke

This post has two parts.  First, an update on how nations pursuing high ESG scores have destroyed their prosperity.  Second, an interesting effort by a Canadian MP to empower shareholders against woke managers following the ESG pied piper.

Capital Activist poster.

Gabriella Hoffman writes at Townhall ESG’s Toxic Brand Isn’t Salvageable.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

As American consumers and investors start souring on Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles being injected into both the public and private sectors, its loudest defenders say a rebrand will salvage its toxic image.

Its dedicated followers reassure us the product they’re selling — forcibly aligning business values with progressive virtue signaling — is good and noble. They tell us, however, that it’s just not sold well, despite being a popular set of beliefs.

Conceived in October 2005 at a U.N. Who Cares Wins Conference, this pervasive movement has glitzy public relations campaigns along with huge financial and political backing. Alas, no rebrand can salvage ESG given its disastrous real-world impact, ruinous effects on businesses, and growing disapproval among the American public.

Notably, the scoring mechanism associated with ESG is flawed and corresponds to imminent economic decline. Wherever high scores are found, countries have experienced great political instability and corresponding financial ruin.

The nations of Sri Lanka, Ghana, and the Netherlands have all experienced turmoil and boast high ESG scores — 98.197.1, and  90.7, respectively. All these nations, coincidentally, banned fertilizer. 

Sri Lanka was the poster child for ESG investment and has suffered the brunt of these principles. Their most recent prime minister just resigned in shame, following months of protests and unrest stemming from the country committing to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and halving its nitrogen use. 

Ghana also took the “E” prong too much to heart, with its government agreeing to raise $5 billion with international capital with Green, Social and Sustainability (GSS) Bonds. Now experiencing runaway inflation, largely due to these GSS bonds, the country is hoping to be bailed out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Netherlands similarly adopted a new continent-wide Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) to boost ESG investment and is now experiencing one of the highest inflation rates in the European Union. This was precipitated by the Dutch government approving a multi-year $21 billion plan to sharply cut ammonia and nitrogen emissions 50% by 2030 which requires one-third of farmers to kill off their herds and shut down indefinitely.

As countries languish with the adoption of ESG policies, private companies should be skeptical of flirting with these high-risk values. All three prongs result in companies losing profit without any measurable social impact.

Imagine that. Prioritizing ESG performance over financial returns doesn’t pay dividends.  Accordingly, consumers and investors are turning against this movement of woke corporatism. 

The Brunswick Group found only 36% of voters “agree unequivocally that companies should speak out on social issues.” A May 2022 Daily Wire/Echelon Insights poll found investors overwhelmingly reject companies pushing social causes over profit. Of the 1,000 respondents polled, 66% of those polled said investors should opt out of ESG-style investments. Gallup similarly recorded that investors still largely prefer performance factors over political or social factors when considering investing opportunities. 

A Modest Reform to Empower Shareholders Against ESG Investing

The National Post reports: The Conservative MP who’s fed up with the menace of woke corporations.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

A Calgary MP is set to propose a uniquely Canadian solution to the problem of ‘woke capital’

Up until now, the backlash against woke corporations has mostly come from south of the border. But that’s about to change, as one courageous Conservative MP is set to propose a uniquely Canadian solution to the problem of “woke capital.”

Corporations are generally considered woke when they engage in social activism that is beyond the scope of their business purpose. It is controversial because it is inherently undemocratic when wealthy officers and directors exploit the unique legal status of a corporation in order to marshal significant resources toward their preferred political agendas.

Canadians have had reasons to worry about woke capital for years: ESG (environmental, social and governance) investment policies have undercut our oil and gas industry; businesses have embraced Black Lives Matter, despite serious concerns about the group’s ethics; and multinational corporations have imported American culture wars into our country.

At last, a Canadian MP is pushing back. Conservative Tom Kmiec, who has represented the riding of Calgary Shepard since 2015, is proposing a new bill designed to hold powerful officers and directors accountable.  Kmiec is currently drafting a private member’s bill to amend Section 122 of the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA), which is focused on the duty of care that officers and directors owe to their shareholders.

If passed, it would ensure that officers and directors prioritize the interests of shareholders above political agendas that are unrelated to the company’s business purpose.

A summary of Kmiec’s bill, which was obtained by the National Post, explains that it would be “considered a breach in the duty of care owed to shareholders when directors and officers of a large distributing corporation (a company with a total market value of shares above $100 million) make activist statements, including in relation to public policy or social issues, that is not directly related to the business the corporation carries out and that could reasonably be expected to reduce the value of shares.”

Wisely, the bill would not prevent companies from making statements on political or social issues, but would require a firm’s board of directors to seek approval from shareholders first. Kmiec’s office hopes that such a mechanism will “make corporations think twice before opining on something beyond their stated corporate purpose.”

Legislation that promises to protect democracy from corporate power is bound to make some people uncomfortable. The proposed changes to the CBCA promise to loosen the grip that woke liberals have over corporate Canada, which will receive push-back from some quarters. Some critics will also argue that businesses should be free to be activists and governments shouldn’t have a say in the matter.

For its part, Kmiec’s office argues that the bill is in fact pro-business by being pro-shareholder, since, at the moment, “Shareholders have no say over these statements and, if backlash occurs, are left on the hook suffering with pecuniary losses through no fault of their own.”

Asked for additional comment on what motivated him to tackle the issue of undue corporate influence, Kmiec said, “My constituents do not want big business like Bell or TD Bank to dictate or weigh in on political and social issues they have no business in. Nobody wants to be lectured about social justice by their bank or their retailer or their grocer. What matters in Calgary Shepard differs from what matters on Bay Street.”

The bill is expected to be tabled later this month when Parliament returns. Although few private member’s bills actually become law in this country, and there is no guarantee that the bill will even be debated or voted on, it will hopefully allow Kmiec’s ideas to get the attention they deserve.

 

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