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What is ESG investing? Is ESG investing good? What are the pros and cons?
Republicans have pledged to pass legislation limiting or even prohibiting corporations from investing in ESG (environmental, social, and governmental) initiatives. However, ESG supporters argue that there are solid economic reasons to support such initiatives.
Read on to learn if ESG investing is a good choice by learning the pros and cons of ESG initiatives.
ESG Investing—A Good Choice?
Socially responsible investing, dubbed ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing, is gaining popularity, as more companies consider the impact of their decisions on the wider world. ESG has sparked heated debates in political circles: Those on the left say companies aren’t taking it far enough, while those on the right warn it may destroy the economy. So, is ESG investing good for the economy or a destructive force?
In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of ESG initiatives, based on the viewpoints of opponents and supporters of ESG investing.
The Current State of ESG Investing
Now that they’ve retaken the House of Representatives, Republicans have pledged to pass legislation limiting or even prohibiting corporations from investing in ESG initiatives. Some observers, though, say they’re unlikely to succeed. ESG, they point out, is a reaction to free market demands, and attempts to interfere are not only doomed, but are also irresponsible—both ethically and fiscally.
ESG initiatives are generally aimed at: 1) healing the planet, 2) supporting diversity and equality, and 3) committing to corporate integrity. Examples include setting emissions goals, providing living wages, diversifying the workplace, and making corporate decision-making more transparent.
More companies are adopting ESG principles—most S&P 500 firms now tie executive compensation to some measure of ESG performance, and companies around the world have committed to reporting their progress on various ESG goals.
Opposition to ESG
Republicans generally argue that ESG investing isn’t good for the economy, claiming that ESG projects conflict with a corporation’s mandate to create profits for its shareholders, leading companies to instead waste money on unsustainable initiatives aimed at appeasing woke activists—greenwashing, they call it.
Taken to an extreme, critics accuse ESG supporters of threatening the global economy; they say that environmental initiatives can only work if companies stop growing, and social initiatives can only work if meritocracy no longer drives hiring and promotion decisions.
To combat these trends, Republicans plan to overturn regulations introduced by the Biden administration and to pass laws requiring investment advisers to prioritize profits over ESG concerns. Further, they’re threatening to hold Congressional hearings where they’ll grill CEOs of major corporations, and already, at the state level, they regularly withhold state contracts from banks they deem “woke.”
Support for ESG
Those who claim that ESG investing is good for the economy, however, point out that there are solid economic reasons to support ESG initiatives.
Take environmental investing: Fossil-fuel-driven industries may be increasingly at risk financially as the world transitions to cleaner forms of energy, and investors would be wise to diversify their portfolios.
Further, global warming is expensive. The destruction caused by rising sea levels and worsening weather patterns like storms, fires, floods, and droughts causes billions of dollars in losses for insurance companies, homeowners, and businesses.
Social initiatives can also increase profits: Companies with progressive hiring policies can more easily attract talent and motivate their employees, and they statistically outperform competitors with less-diverse workforces. And ethical, transparent corporate governance has benefits, too: It leads to better relations with communities (allowing easier access to labor and resources), and it decreases the likelihood that governments will impose stringent regulations. ESG supporters also warn that if legislators restrict the ability of corporations to invest in ESG priorities, they’ll be restricting companies from performing their own risk assessments.
The Future of ESG
In the end, though, companies can only do so much to advance ESG initiatives without governmental support. There’s little incentive for corporations to impose onerous rules on themselves if it puts them at a competitive disadvantage in the short term.
However, some observers argue that it’s only a matter of time before the opposition of the political right in the U.S. disappears and ESG investing is accepted as a necessary part of a stable economy.
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