What is ESG?

Heritage Explains

What is ESG?

The radical agenda of the “Environmental, Social, and Governance” movement.

This week, Ian Artinger, Director of Digital Communications at Heritage Action explains what ESG is and how this liberal scoring system hurts us all. Learn more at www.esghurts.com.

Michelle Cordero: From The Heritage Foundation, I'm Michelle Cordero, and this is Heritage Explains. Every time I try and read an article about ESG, I immediately hit words like asset manager and shareholder. There are corporation names like BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard. And from there, I tune out, because I assume that this information is not for me. It's for businessmen and women who watch Wall Street and consume Fox Business regularly. But the truth is ESG affects everyone, and it's important that all Americans are informed about the dangers attached to it.

Cordero: So today I wanted to do something a little different and explain ESG without all that finance jargon. ESG stands for Environmental Social Governance, and it's a classification system that companies, maybe even your place of employment, are using to push the left's agenda. Think of it like a credit score. If you don't score high enough on their woke meter, you could be canceled. Here's audio from a video just released by The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action.

Brian: Hey, I'm Brian. My pronouns are he, his, him. I understand you're looking for a small business loan, but you're having troubles with your ESG score.

Speaker 3: I was denied.

Brian: What's your business?

Speaker 3: I operate drilling equipment. Oil and gas.

Brian: Uh-huh. The E in ESG is for an environmental. You are in a dirty industry.

Speaker 3: So I can't get no loan?

Brian: Well, let's take a look at your company's social policies. Tell me about your plan to create social justice.

Speaker 3: Social justice.

Brian: Do your employees get paid time off for abortions? And tell me about your diversity, equity, and inclusion plan.

Speaker 3: Well, I ain't got none of that. I'm a driller. I just hire good people to do the work.

Brian: Well, maybe there's one more thing we can check. Do you have any female co-owners?

Speaker 3: No, just me.

Brian: Ooh. Have you ever identified as a woman or even just non-binary? It could really help your score.

Speaker 3: What?

Brian: Your loan is denied. Come back when you fix your ESG score.

>>> Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action Launch “ESG Hurts” National Campaign

Cordero: Sounds extreme, but it's exactly what's happening. Today Ian Artinger, director of digital communications at Heritage Action, is going to help further explain ESG, how this liberal scoring system hurts us all, and what we can do about it. Our conversation after this break.

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Cordero: Ian, thank you so much for joining us.

Ian Artinger: Hey. Glad to be here, Michelle. Thank you for having me.

Cordero: Okay, to start off, let's start at a really 101 level. What is ESG? Let's start with just the acronyms.

Artinger: Okay. ESG stands for Environmental Social Governance, and these are policies that the left ... It's really their latest political tool that they're using to force conservatives, to force companies, to force employees to comply with their political it's agenda. When you hear of their woke agenda in schools, they called it CRT. You can basically think of their woke agenda in companies and businesses, that's ESG.

Cordero: Okay. All right. So explain how they're pushing this. So if they push it at schools, we know how they're pushing CRT. How does the left push ESG?

Artinger: Yeah, there's actually several ways. I mean, so one is through bureaucratic roles. This is your classic red tape regulation. So another way is via law. Then you have a lot of companies kind of being pushed by their investors. You have activist investors, and you're even going to see it from their employees. So you have very woke social justice warrior employees, and they're demanding their companies get on board with this Environmental Social Governance agenda.

Cordero: So what we're seeing at Disney and some of those larger corporations.

Artinger: Exactly.

Cordero: Okay. And they're doing this through a scoring system. Can we talk a little bit about the scoring system?

Artinger: Yeah. I think that's important, because I think that's the real thing. That's the innovative thing that the Left is doing with ESG, is frankly, a lot of what you're seeing with ESG are things that you're probably, if you pointed out to it in life, you would recognize it. You've dealt with it, you've experienced it, you've seen it. You mentioned Disney, them coming out against that law in Florida to support parental rights. And they said, "No, we don't ... We're going to take a stand against this." You also see companies who are virtue signaling, boycotting oil and gas. You have companies that favor employees based on race, sexual orientation, their gender identity-

Cordero: Paying for abortion,

Artinger: Bingo. All these kind of woke things. That's kind of all ESG. But kind of the innovative thing that the left is doing, and I don't mean innovative in a good way, it's a bad innovation, is they are packaging all of these agenda items together and boiling it down to an ESG score. It's one number. This is how good of a company you are, how high your score is. You get a good score, you're a good company; you got to bad score, you're a bad company. And then they can use that score to then kind of force compliance. I mean, you see this in simple ways where, okay, you want to apply for a government contract? Well, maybe government contracts by law are written so only companies with a good ESG score are acceptable to do that. You want to take out a small business loan? Well, the bank is only going to do business with people who have a good ESG score. And that's the danger there.

Cordero: And that's actually happening?

Artinger: Yes. You're seeing already investors talk about they're only going to invest in companies with good ESG scores, and that's where it starts. I mean here, here's a headline. This one I just read from the other week. "Bank announces it will ban loans for petrol or diesel cars in order to fight climate change and encourage electric vehicles."

Cordero: That's ESG?

Artinger: That's ESG. Here's another one. This is another recent headline. "Pfizer Fellowship flagrantly violates the law, lawyers say. The breakthrough fellowship prohibits whites and Asians from applying, a restriction that is flagrantly illegal." That's ESG, where you're kind of creating these quotas, you're kind of boiling people down to diversity check boxes. You're not really focused on who is the best candidate for the job. You're focused on, okay, who's going to help us hit our quotas? That way we can file a report at the end of the year saying, hey, look. We're a good ESG company. We're down with the social justice agenda.

Cordero: So it's kind of like all these woke things that we've been seeing pop up in the media and all around the United States, but now they're combined, and you're given a score.

Artinger: Bingo. And this may sound familiar to some people. If you're familiar with Communist China social credit scores, you're familiar with what ESG scores are. They're social credit scores meant to force compliance. So in Communist China, they're cracking down. It's very Big Brother, straight out if George Orwell, "1984." If you don't have a good social credit score, because you haven't been saying the right things about the government, well, guess what? You can't take out money out of the bank. You can't buy a plane ticket or train ticket to travel to another province. They're literally canceling you and exiling you, make it literally impossible to live. You can't get a job because your ESG score says you're not socially acceptable, and you're basically labeled as other and untouchable and nobody wants to associate with you because then the government's going to crack down on them, too.

Artinger: And so ESG scores are ... It's the same strategy just imported to America where it's like, okay. Okay, you're a small business. You're involved in, say, supplying materials for an oil and gas refinery. Well, okay, you're associated with a bad industry, so therefore we don't want to work with you either.

Cordero: Yeah, let's talk about that a little bit more. Let's talk about the amount of people that are bearing the brunt of this, who ESG is hurting. Because I think, as I mentioned in our introduction, people to have a tendency to associate ESG with companies like BlackRock and these big corporations and think that it only affects those type of people. But who is it really hurting?

Artinger: It's really, at a personal level, it affects all of us. I mean, because many of us are small business owners, and so small business owners certainly is going to affect you because as these things come more compliant, there's going to be more red tape regulations. That's going to increase your cost of doing business. Those costs get passed on to customers. But, you see, it affects retirees. So if you and I are putting money in a 401k, or maybe we work for the city government, we have a pension, those funds all, if we're invested in some sort of asset management like a mutual fund or something, if that money starts getting invested based on these ESG goals, it's going to go to companies that are basically trying to hurt the industries that we support, that we need. I mean, you have in Oklahoma, 6 percent of jobs are somehow tied to oil and gas.

Artinger: Well, can imagine a state like that is thinking, "We don't want our retirement funds to go to support ESG companies because those companies are hurting our industry. They're hurting our state." And so really, from customers to owners, employees to retirees, all of us need jobs. Work is good. Having a way to provide for your family while contributing meaningfully, that's good. But nobody wants to go to work at one of these woke nightmare corporations where you're basically evaluated. Your performance isn't based on how much you help the company grow and how much talent you helped retain. It's just like, did you hit your ESG goals?

Artinger: And your employer is focused more, not on delivering good products for customers, but virtue signaling by saying, "Hey, we're going to pay for all your coworkers abortions." Nobody wants to work there. So it affects all of us. Whether you're shopping, working, saving for retirement, trying to start your own small business, ESG hurts you.

Cordero: So in conclusion then, I think a way people have been thinking about this, you've been seeing these lists that go around letting people know all of these woke corporations that we should boycott and no longer give our business to because of ESG. What else can we do to stop this?

Artinger: Well, there's a lot we can do. I think going back to the analogy about CRT and fighting against that woke agenda. Standing up using your voice, calling it out. The left wants to implement this agenda, and they want to do it quietly. They don't want a lot of pushback. So when you see it, pointing it out, calling it out, raising a red flag, raising awareness, talking with your friends and family about this issue. It's a big deal. I mean, the CRT issue swung elections, and ESG can do the same thing.

Artinger: But there's a lot legislators can do. Several states have already passed laws to help mitigate the effects of ESG. Just this year, Tennessee, Kentucky, Oklahoma all passed great bills. West Virginia, too. West Virginia basically said oil, gas, coal, these are important industries. They're not going to do any of their banking with big financial firms that are pushing for ESG, because it's going to hurt West Virginia. And they said, "We'll take our financial contracts, and we're going to go elsewhere."

Artinger: There's other things. States can be doing that same thing with their pension retirement account, saying, "Let's invest our money in businesses that are good for our state and not fund an agenda that literally we shouldn't be forced to pay for the people who are actively destroying our livelihoods. That's not good for our state." So those legislative efforts, expect more of that to happen. Heritage and Heritage Action are certainly leading with this with policy ideas and creative thinking about how to combat ESG. Heritage Action, very involved with grassroots and education, helping people support good legislation, helping them talk with their friends and organize and create resistance to this movement. And you're going to see a lot more of this in the year to come.

Artinger: Florida governor Ron DeSantis has said he wants to take on ESG. Recently he said Florida is where woke goes to die. The Florida Speaker Designee Paul Renner has publicly stated that he wants to put legislation on Governor DeSantis's desk to combat ESG. This is a big issue, and expect to hear a lot more about it in the next year. And get involved, because you can do a lot. If you want to get involved, go to ESGhurts.com. It's this website we launched. Enter in your email, stay up to date.

Cordero: All right. All right. We're going to drop a link to ESGhurts.com in our show notes. Ian, thank you so much for coming on and helping us break down ESG at this level, and we hope you'll come back and join us soon.

Artinger: Hey, my pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.

Cordero: That's it for this week's episode. I'll link to the video we ran in the intro segment of the show in our show notes, in case anyone wants to share that on social media. And as always, sharing our show is the best way to help us grow. Thanks again, and we'll see you next week.

Heritage Explains is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. It is produced by Michelle Cordero and Tim Doescher with editing by John Popp.

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