Across the country, debates are heating up around ESG (environmental, social, and governance) scores and whether or not they should be used and encouraged.
ESG scores are a voluntary system for sustainability reporting and provide a common framework for evaluating corporate governance and social impacts. They measure the impacts of companies and give them a score for how responsible their business is, in an effort to prioritize social responsibility on corporate stakeholders in the global economy. ESG is a voluntary accounting method that can be used by any business or company. Some businesses use them to show their customers that they are making strides in sustainability, while some investors use them to guide investments.
The popularity of ESG reporting has grown over the years, with more companies using the system to attract investors. According to Investor.gov, some of those metrics include a company’s commitment to factors like sustainability, employee relations, and executive compensation.
ESG reporting also creates a way for companies to respond to customer demands – if shareholders want a company to become more environmentally sound, ESG scores can help track that progress. While this may sound like an easy and transparent way to show how companies are acting, not everyone is on board with ESG.
Some states, companies and politicians are opposing ESG, because they fear that it represents a threat to their way of doing business
Some oil-friendly states have been fighting the adoption of ESG scores because the scores are shining a light on how much money the state makes from environmentally damaging industries like coal mining, coal-fired power generation and others. Big companies that value ESG factors are stepping up for corporate responsibility and the environment by refusing to insure or invest in these industries or companies.
Another effort undermining ESG reporting is a claim from the Heartland Institute that ESG is a way for “big bank puppet masters” to control society. According to this claim, major investors will use ESG as a way to control how businesses work and force businesses to change. Their solution to ensure “freedom” is to completely ban ESG use, which runs counter to a free market ideology. If a business wants to adopt more environmentally conscious practices to respond to customers and wants to show proof of their good action through ESG scores – legislation shouldn’t stop them from doing so. The same goes for investors that demonstrate their values by investing in businesses with high ESG scores.
The ESG debate is heating up in Idaho after a recent visit to the legislature from Glenn Beck, a celebrity talk show host and conspiracy theorist.
Beck has been warning of the supposed evils of ESG for years and is now working with the Heartland Institute to bring legislation that would ban considerations of ESG scores by investment firms. This partnership has led to proposed legislation in a handful of states across the US, resulting in a rapidly evolving and, in some cases, contradictory policy landscape.
A bill prohibiting the use of ESG in Wyoming was recently introduced, and the Heartland Institute testified in support of it. In response to Beck’s recent Idaho visit, the Gem State could be next in line to see legislative action around ESG.
Beck’s visit to Idaho was at the invitation of Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R- Idaho Falls) to present on ESG, which he describes as “CRT (Critical Race Theory) on steroids.” In Beck’s energetic presentation, he told the group that everyone will eventually have an ESG score and that scores will be used to track individuals and businesses, ruining business opportunities in the process.
These false statements have turned ESG into a boogeyman in the legislature, with many legislators’ newsletters referencing ESG since.
Just days after Beck’s presentation, Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) wrote an op-ed in the Bonners Ferry Herald reflecting on the presentation. She wrote that Beck shared “valuable information on the World Economic Forum’s global agenda pertaining to The Great Reset,” and that the ESG scoring system is at the heart of that.
Misinformation about ESG scores is being used to attack moderate Republicans and stop common-sense legislation, and Idaho could be the next victim. We are expecting at least one bill addressing this issue in the coming weeks.
This attack on free market principles — preventing investors from evaluating how they spend their own money — is really just another way for some politicians to limit forward action on climate, treatment of employees and fair business dealings. If the state’s going to limit how companies respond to investors and markets, it should be based on facts, not conspiracy theorists or entertainers.
We need to support reasonable policy decisions, and protect our state from being undermined by conspiracy theories. To do this, we must show state leaders that ESG is valuable to Idahoans. A recent report from Colorado College shows that 83 percent of Idahoans take the environment into account at the ballot box. This value is reflected by the Idaho businesses that already use ESG scores, including Albertsons, Idaho Power, Micron and many others.
ESG scoring will continue to grow in popularity, as more businesses adopt these values based on the demands of their shareholders to be responsible corporate citizens. ESG scores help bring transparency to businesses and highlight values important to Idahoans, and instead of being undermined, they should be protected.
We will continue to track any discussion or action on ESG in the statehouse, sign up for our ICL Legislative Update to get the latest information.