Do the New Hampshire legislators know that the experts who recently told them to pass a bill prohibiting banks from taking environmental, social and governance standards into account came from the same organization that’s actively working on behalf of the tobacco industry?
Because last week, a “P.S.” note at the bottom of a Heartland Institute email to subscribers explained they sent “two policy experts to New Hampshire this week to testify in favor of a proposed bill that would make the abuse of environment, social, and government (ESG) scores illegal. If the legislation succeeds, Heartland will use it as a template in all 50 states.”
Here’s the bill draft, which is pretty concise for a proposed law, prohibiting banks from “discriminatory practices” based on “social credit or environmental, social justice and governmental score.” The issue here is ESG, a basic measure of how a company treats the environment, interacts with the public, and governs itself. But, if you’re wondering what “social credit” is, congrats, you don’t have rightwing disinfo brain worms! Whoever drafted this bill does have a bad case though, as the “social credit” issue is mostly an anti-China, Russia-popularized rightwing-loved meme with scant basis in reality.
Interestingly, while looking for coverage of Heartland’s expert testimony we came up empty- instead. We did find Heartland is actively working on behalf of its Big Tobacco funders, so it seems possible that while visiting the Granite State to lobby for products that kill their users, these experts did a little side-work trying to get the state to punish banks who refuse to lend to businesses that kill their users.
More broadly, this is just one part of a much larger fight against efforts to steer money to companies that do good things and away from those that are dangerous. For example, as Kate Aronoff reported earlier this month, Joe Manchin’s former employer ALEC is also shopping around draft bills that would similarly boost fossil fuels by law.
Over the past decades, but particularly the past year, the idea that the financial sector can fight climate change by reallocating resources to renewables instead of fossil fuels has gained traction, particularly as Biden eyes climate hawk regulators.
Bigger picture though, Corporate Social Responsibility, and related ESG investing is mostly about making sure companies are run by competent management (governance), don’t treat people so terribly that the brand’s reputation is ruined (social) and don’t pollute the environment so much that the government will likely need to step in and force them to clean up. It’s built, or at least popularized, and justified on the idea that any company that doesn’t meet basic ESG standards is essentially a ticking time bomb waiting for some big scandal to crater its stock price, with Nike’s child labor and sweatship scandals of the 1990’s serving as the textbook example of why these sorts of things matter for a company’s bottom line. (See also: Exxon Valdeez, BP’s Gulf oil spill, Bhopal, etc.)
Unsurprisingly, then, the fossil fuel industry isn’t particularly pleased to have lost its erstwhile backers in the finance industry, and the disinformation industry is attempting to manufacture a backlash.
You can see it up and down the denial ecosystem. The Wall Street Journal just started a new series by columnist James Mackintosh that seeks to expose the “flaws'' of sustainable investment. We’re not going to get into the details, because they’re a distraction as Mackintosh is merely dressing up rightwing lunacy as sophisticated financial analysis.
For example, Jordan Peterson referenced ESG in his “I quit so you can’t cancel me” op-ed, and recently retweeted a Glenn Beck blackboard clip about ESG, for the wild-eyed conspiracy theory demographic, one that CFACT has similarly targeted with its attempt to rebrand ESG as “extreme shortages guaranteed.”
But ultimately the policymakers are the true targets, which is why polluter-funded CEI submitted official comments on ESG regulations, and Big Oil PR man Alex Epstein has developed talking points.
RealClear Politics, a major recipient of Koch funding, has had Rupert Darwall “researching” and publishing on ESG issues, culminating in a near-30 page screed.
But the most glaring example is a recent letter in which major methane gas exporters complained to the UN about the “cancel culture on hydrocarbons.” Yes, they compared the fact that burning fossil fuels is causing catastrophic climate change (a fact the fossil fuel industry accurately predicted decades ago) to the conservative grievance over racists and misogynists and sexual predetors facing social consequences for their abhorrent behavior.
Although at first glance ridiculous-sounding, it’s actually a fair comparison. These are both examples of the rich and powerful being held accountable for the harms they caused others for the benefit of themselves. And in both cases, those who complain are really just telling on themselves.
Thanks to these cancel-culture-complaining petrostates for letting us all know they’re just like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein and a bunch of D-list celebrities fired for racist social media posts.