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ESG: The Insidious Way "Big Woke" Is Attacking Your Financial Well-Being

If you have been watching Tucker Carlson or FOX Business for the last few months you've probably started to hear a lot about something called "ESG" --a.k.a. "environmental and social governance." If you have read financial journals for the last few years you have probably seen companies' "ESG scores" ranked.

Chances are, if you are like most people, you probably didn't think too much about it. We all have a tendency to think "environmental" stuff is fairly innocuous. For those of us who think words should mean what they've always meant "environmentalism" isn't a Left versus Right political debate.

Theoretically we ALL want clean water, clean air and clean parks.

The reality is that environmentalism has become a political football in recent years. And, tragically, a lot of hard political Leftists have revealed they genuinely don't care that much about clean air, clean water or clean parks. If you have lived in the SF Bay Area for more than a decade, you probably remember when most of our public parks were pretty clean. San Francisco used to sparkle. There was something idyllic about walking through the postage stamp local parks. Now? Well, now even north Marin has mass homeless encampments and if you walk in our public parks you have to worry about accidentally kicking a bloodstained broken needle.

The situation in East Palestine, Ohio, has pretty much revealed how the modern Left actually feels about the "environment." The environment is a political football, great to whine about and have fundraisers for. But... if it involves work, or doing the decent thing, or being accountable, or treating working-class (mainly white) midwesterners like they deserve clean water and air, the Leftist environmental political class will be missing in action. Maybe taking some "personal time" with Pete Buttigieg, the Secretary of Transportation.

So, why did "environmentalism" become such a valuable political football?

Well, in the world of finance "environmentalism" and "social justice" a.k.a. "governance" have become incredibly valuable buzzwords. Want a hall-pass for incompetence? Want a hall-pass for bad corporate management, terrible returns for investors and a possibly malevolent corporate ideology? Easy, just brag about your "ESG."

The woke-washed modern corporate CEOs make us almost nostalgic for the 19th century barons of capitalism. At least with a 19th century timber baron you knew what you were dealing with. (Someone who wanted to cut down trees and make a lot of money. Probably someone who also really liked spalted walnut.) And, with a 19th century robber baron, you usually weren't dealing with a corporate type who was "investing" the retirement money of millions of hardworking Americans.

The sad reality these days is that tens of millions of Americans are financially supporting a corporate system they have little to no voice in. And they're supporting it with their hard-earned savings. If you have money in a 401K, IRA, CALPERS or some other savings program and you are invested in an "ETF" --a.k.a. "exchange traded fund"-- your money is, mainly, invested in the stock market but you, as an individual, don't get to vote the value of your shares at any stockholder meeting. Instead your ETF manager gets to use the power of YOUR money --and the power of millions of other small investors' money-- to vote how THEY feel like it. And, increasingly, ETF managers are very woke. And they are using YOUR money to impose THEIR ideology on companies that will then shape YOUR life.

Last year Marin Republican Women, Federated hosted a financial speaker on the topic of ESG. (The ladies of MRWF always host excellent speaker lunches, and we're bragging a bit about their ESG speaker in part because their guest speaker was a former chairman of the MarinGOP and a financial expert.)

As usual, the ladies of MRWF were a bit ahead of the curve choosing a topic and they --and their speaker-- were worried that the audience might not care that much about something that very few people outside the financial and political world were talking about 7 months ago. But, you never know what an impact just one 45 minute speech will have.

One of the MRWF ladies was inspired to ask some very hard questions of her pension fund manager via email about what kind of an impact ESG was having on her investments and HER retirement future. (Money, you see, is never really about money. Someone's retirement savings is about their future AND a symbol of a lifetime of work.)

The lady in question forwarded us the email exchange she had with her pension fund guy --she is a part of CALPERs-- and gave us permission to share it (with some personal details redacted) in the hopes that it would inspire OTHERS to ask the same questions she is asking. As individuals most of us can't individually stop the woke takeover of corporate America. But, the combined power of thousands of people with investments asking hard questions might force a few people in the finance world to step away from the juggernaut of woke-dom and ESG.

Fast forward to March of 2023 and apparently a lot of people are asking questions. Not just Mark, Arlene and Speaker McCarthy. Apparently enough people on the big bad scary "right" are asking questions about ESG that NPR, the Aspen Institute, the New York Times (hotlinks to a few token stories are included --the NYT is particularly breathless and disturbed) and other shills of the woke Establishment are publishing handwringing pieces suddenly complaining about how ESG has become a rightwing bogieman. We don't know about you, but we figure when NPR and the New York Times both claim that the "Right-wing" is making a big deal of "nothing" we should probably make an even bigger deal. And, get all of our moderate friends to ask questions as well.

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