• Atmospheric CO2 /Parts per Million /Annual Averages /Data Source: noaa.gov

  • 1980338.91ppm

  • 1981340.11ppm

  • 1982340.86ppm

  • 1983342.53ppm

  • 1984344.07ppm

  • 1985345.54ppm

  • 1986346.97ppm

  • 1987348.68ppm

  • 1988351.16ppm

  • 1989352.78ppm

  • 1990354.05ppm

  • 1991355.39ppm

  • 1992356.1ppm

  • 1993356.83ppm

  • 1994358.33ppm

  • 1995360.18ppm

  • 1996361.93ppm

  • 1997363.04ppm

  • 1998365.7ppm

  • 1999367.8ppm

  • 2000368.97ppm

  • 2001370.57ppm

  • 2002372.59ppm

  • 2003375.14ppm

  • 2004376.96ppm

  • 2005378.97ppm

  • 2006381.13ppm

  • 2007382.9ppm

  • 2008385.01ppm

  • 2009386.5ppm

  • 2010388.76ppm

  • 2011390.63ppm

  • 2012392.65ppm

  • 2013395.39ppm

  • 2014397.34ppm

  • 2015399.65ppm

  • 2016403.09ppm

  • 2017405.22ppm

  • 2018407.62ppm

  • 2019410.07ppm

  • 2020412.44ppm

  • 2021414.72ppm

  • 2022418.56ppm

  • 2023421.08ppm

Ron DeSantis, the current Governor of Florida and potential Republican candidate for the US Presidency, is one of the fiercest opponents of ESG principles
News & Views

Weekend Read: Black is the new green as anti-ESG sentiment swells

The movement that is fiercely opposed to ESG principles in investing is rapidly gaining ground, particularly in the world's largest market

Content Tags: Policy  ESG  Sustainability  US  UK 

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations being implemented in investment strategies is nothing new, with the term itself dating back to a meeting of the UN Global Compact nearly two decades ago, in 2004.

In recent years, the notion of ESG entered more common parlance, as its principles are increasingly taken on board by institutional investors and asset managers in tandem with a raft of voluntary and mandatory disclosure requirements. 

Yet with this popularity, ESG has also found itself subject to a more sustained, and directly political, attack. 

Perhaps the most notable critic is former BlackRock sustainability head turned 'whistleblower' Tariq Fancy, who has said: “In my role [at BlackRock], I was helping to popularise an idea that the answer to a sustainable future runs through ESG and sustainability and green products, that the answer to the market’s failure to serve the long-term public interest is, of course, more market.

“A bit like the NRA’s traditional answer to mass shootings and related concerns around public safety — the answer is more guns.”

In addition, last year former US Vice President Mike Pence wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal on the topic of how “Republicans can stop ESG Political Bias."

Within in this, Pence urged for the “radical ESG agenda” supposedly being pushed by the likes of State Street, BlackRock and Vanguard to be curtailed by direct government action.

Pence's letter gave the anti-ESG movement a major push, and the contra-sustainability wind is only getting stronger and stronger. Is black the new green?

State-wide efforts

What is undeniable is that the anti-ESG movement is no longer an empty threat: concrete measures and specific proposals have entered into Republican-held state legislatures across the US.

In September 2021, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 13, which prohibits the state’s use of asset managers which otherwise “boycott” oil and gas firms due to any ESG-based metrics. 

Moreover, in March last year, 20 large asset managers including BlackRock, JP Morgan Chase and even non-US firms such as Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings received letters from Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, asking whether they do “boycott” such energy firms, and how they consider fossil fuel investments.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, a January 2023 bill warned 11 large financial institutions including Schroders, BlackRock and HSBC that they will be subject to divestment if they also continue to “boycott” fossil fuel companies.

And only last month, Florida introduced state-level legislation which blocks the use of ESG in all investment decisions at the state and local level, and eliminates consideration of ESG factors by state and local governments when issuing bonds.

Giving his support for the bill, Florida House Speaker Paul Renner said: “We will not allow these martini millionaires to push unsafe and unsound investment practices that silence debate in the political process, weaken investment strategies for Florida retirees, and discriminate against any individual’s beliefs.”

This move followed from an action taken by the Sunshine State in December 2022, divesting $2bn worth of assets currently managed by BlackRock due to the company’s ESG strategy.


We will not allow these martini millionaires to push unsafe and unsound investment practices [ESG] that silence debate in the political process.

Paul Renner, Florida House Speaker

These states are not alone, and similar such anti-ESG legislation has been proposed or passed in states including Arkansas, Kansas, and South Carolina. All of these states are attached to the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), which has “educating Americans on the dangers of ESG” as its motto.

In September 2022 the ostensibly ESG-friendly Federated Hermes faced criticism from Danish pension funds and activist groups for having previously been a “gold sponsor” of SFOF, and while the firm declined comment on the affair when asked by Net Zero Investor, it has since withdrawn affiliation.

Federal level

At federal level, Pence recently called for ESG-investing to be curtailed, and President Joe Biden’s first-ever veto followed, over a Republican-backed bill that would have stopped retirement plans from incorporating ESG into their risk assessment.

“Legislation passed by this Congress would put at risk the retirement savings of individuals across the country. They couldn't take into consideration investments that were being impacted by climate, or impacted by overpaying executives”, Biden explained.

Meanwhile, one of the fiercest opponents of ESG principles, the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is considered a frontrunner for the Republican nomination for the US Presidency in the upcoming 2024 elections. 

Another contender is former US President Donald Trump, whose decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement in his first term signals that any support for ESG may be limited indeed were there a return to the White House. 

Another, albeit less likely, option for the Republican nomination is the relatively unheard of Vivek Ramaswamy, the co-founder of Strive Asset Management for whom taking an anti-ESG stance is the central plank of his political platform.

Impact on investing

The effect the anti-ESG movement is having on the wider world of responsible investment is less than clear cut, though the largest asset managers in the US have appeared already to be tempering some of their environmental credentials.

In December last year Vanguard left the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative, an international group of asset managers committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

Chief executive Tim Buckley would not be drawn on whether the move was a response to the anti-ESG movement, instead claiming Vanguard’s “voice was simply being drowned out or confused” while a part of the initiative.

In the most recent of his annual address to shareholders, BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink stated a belief that it was regulators not investors that should be playing the role of “environmental policeman” was also restating a personal mantra that climate risk was investment risk.


[anti-ESG] legislation passed by this Congress would put at risk the retirement savings of individuals across the country.

Joe Biden, US President

As well as the prospect of “greenhushing”, another reaction to the anti-ESG movement has been one more of bemusement mixed with frustration.

Speaking to Net Zero Investor, Elizabeth Small, head of policy for CDP North America, said: “These kinds of [anti-ESG] actions are dangerous. I think that they're misleading and I think that they're harmful.

“CDP is an organization that for 20 years has been running an environmental disclosure platform. Year on year we have had growth both in the investor signatories that are demanding this data and in the corporations that find it desirable to disclose it. The idea that any investor should have limited information on risk is perplexing.”

On the legislative side, Small also pointed to a US Department of Labor decision in December 2022, which confirmed that ESG factors were a material concern when making investments. 

This was a reversal of a move in 2020, late in the Trump administration, which made claims that ESG factors were not “pecuniary” and therefore not material to financial performance.

Speaking at a panel discussion held by law firm Akin Gump, Elsa Palanza, global head of sustainability & ESG at Intermediate Capital Group, said: “ESG has been hijacked and mis-named as something new. You can only hijack it if you treat it as though it's a concept unto itself, when it is an acronym that stands for a lot of concepts that have been true to good business for decades.

“Many of those who are espousing anti ESG rhetoric come from the [Republican] party which has long claimed to been the party of business. ESG is an apparatus and this movement doesn't make any sense when you think about it from a logical point of view. But none of this is logical.”


How on earth do you evaluate which ESG factor is more important? Everybody will have a different view.

Ian Nolan, Circularity Capital

However, even ESG advocates are not always shy to say that the concept is imperfect, with longstanding issues relating to areas such as the difficulties in obtaining quality data in the field, to the understanding that responsible investment cannot act as a crutch when legislators are failing to take the actions necessary to combat climate change.

For Ian Nolan, founding partner of a private equity firm focused on the circular economy, Circularity Capital, a key issue facing ESG is that its three elements constitute wildly different considerations for company and investor alike.

“The E and the S and the G are qualitatively entirely different. So when people try to track or monitor outcomes, they're much more about compliance with policies. When proving you have a policy on net zero or racial diversity, it's definitely entering a world of checklists.

“I suppose you can put a score on this in a compliance sense, but how on earth do you evaluate which ESG factor is more important? Everybody will have a different view. How do you compare two companies when there's no objective, measurable way of making the comparison?”, he said.

These issues came to a head in May last year when electric car manufacturer Tesla were removed from the S&P 500 ESG Index for social and governance failings, while oil and gas giant ExxonMobil were left on, leaving Tesla CEO Elon Musk to label ESG metrics “the Devil Incarnate.”

'More insidious than communism'

It’s clear that in certain circles, opposition to the notion of ESG is reaching absolute fever pitch far beyond the typical sphere of discussion in the responsible investment space.

In a recording obtained by Boston news station WBUR, Andy Puzder, a conservative commentator and former chief executive of fast food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., said: “My father's generation's challenge was the Nazis, who, by the way, were, of course, very proud socialists. The challenge of my generation was the communists, who were, of course, very committed socialists. The challenge of your generation is ESG investing, and it's more insidious than communism or the Nazis."

Depending on who you ask, the notion of ESG may be the preserve of “martini millionaires”, equivocal to the National Rifle Association, or even more insidious than the Nazi Party. 

To others, it merely is a splintered movement linked to wider conversations on areas such as climate change and responsible investing. 

While Biden is currently providing stalwart defence, anti-ESG enforcement will also likely become law in the US if the Republican party reaches enough of a critical mass at the national level, with the next Republican President in office as soon as January 2025.

Pushing back against the anti-ESG wave, Small said: “We know that climate risk is financial risk. We know that the figures are staggering when we look at the cost of climate risk, and we are decades past this being a business case.

“In some ways, this ‘backlash’ is a signal that the work that people have been doing to understand the nature of risk and incorporate material climate risk has been mainstreamed. It's about smart investing. It's not a political issue, and making it a political issue is dizzying.”

Content Tags: Policy  ESG  Sustainability  US  UK 

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