It has only been a decade since climate activists launched campaigns to get financial institutions and money managers to see that dollars pumped into the fossil fuel industry were a risk to both the planet and investor portfolios.
That effort has had some success but remains a work in progress. All of Wall Street now talks about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles in investing, and that’s a problem. Claims of a commitment to that philosophy are ubiquitous among corporations and investment funds, and investors are left to figure out which declarations amount to mere greenwashing. Only within the last year have government watchdogs moved to set standards on what companies must disclose about climate risks.
Before those rules are set, Republicans have decided the time is right for an anti-ESG backlash. In 2023, they are preparing on multiple fronts to take on Wall Street, corporate America, and US financial regulators for, in their view, paying too much attention to environmental concerns and not enough to making money.
It’s “woke capitalism,” in the words of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely seen as a possible challenger to former President Donald Trump for leadership of the Republican Party. DeSantis’ administration announced last month that it was pulling out all Florida State Treasury funds—some $2 billion—that were invested with BlackRock, the Wall Street firm that has become most closely associated with ESG.