DEREK KREIFELS: Americans Can Stop The Left’s ESG Movement Dead In Its Tracks. Here’s How

Derek Kreifels 

American taxpayers and investors scored a big win earlier this month when Vanguard Group announced its withdraw from Net Zero Asset Managers, an international group of asset managers aligned with the UN’s misguided belief that zero carbon emission levels can be achieved — by reshaping the global economy.

Vanguard’s abrupt about-face is important because it demonstrates that we can successfully stand up to woke corporate elitists’ efforts to impose their dangerous Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) agenda.

Vanguard and other corporate boardrooms infiltrated with progressive activists have been leveraging their massive investment portfolios — including state pension funds and everyday Americans’ retirement nest eggs to force companies to implement the radical and often covert ESG political agenda in their business practices, including the left’s dangerous anti-energy policies.

Just prior to Memorial Day, Vanguard was crowing that nine funds managing $290 billion would be halfway toward the NZAM net zero goal by the end of this decade. The policies pursued by NZAM are a major reason why electricity prices increased 15.8% this year, the largest jump since 1981.

But as the holiday season was underway, Vanguard was singing a different tune, declaring that it had “decided to withdraw from NZAM so that we can provide the clarity our investors desire about the role of index funds and about how we think about material risks.” A quick change of heart? Doubtful.

Attorneys general representing 13 states had requested the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review Vanguard’s request to purchase utility company stocks, in conflict with its anti-energy commitments which could result in closing the utility companies and skyrocketing energy rates. As if that wasn’t enough heat, Vanguard — along with BlackRock, StateStreet and ISS — was asked to appear before a Dec. 15 hearing before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs to answer questions on how ESG is impacting state pensions.

One of the many flaws of the ESG scam is that in focusing on such top-down political goals dictated by unelected bureaucrats instead of maximizing the value of our retirements and pensions to their fullest potential, Vanguard and other asset management firms violate their fiduciary responsibility to their clients. Members of the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), whose responsibilities include protecting state pension funds, understand this conflict and were among the first to take action.

This past January, West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore cut his state investment fund’s ties with BlackRock, the leading pusher of ESG, withdrawing more than $20 million in state funds. “It’s like we’re paying them with our own money to destroy us,” Riley said, adding that the company has “all the worst intentions for our industries here in West Virginia.”

Moore followed up in July by announcing that West Virginia would sever its relationship with five major financial institutions for their embrace of ESG policies aimed at destroying West Virginia’s coal industry. Financial officers from other states followed suit, freeing billions of dollars in state pension funds from ESG management criteria.

ESG activists are intentionally operating below the radar with the help of unelected bureaucrats and regulatory agencies. They function like a shadow government without any oversight or accountability to the everyday investors whose retirement nest eggs are funding their agenda. And they certainly don’t like the idea of answering uncomfortable questions.

But unless voices do step up and ask those questions, ESG will use our investment dollars to transform America into a nation whose values we no longer recognize. We also know that ESG activists behave like bullies.

And when we take concerted action, even bullies like Vanguard which manages about $7 trillion in assets can be backed down. When ESG is defeated, we reclaim the future that Americans have earned.

Derek Kreifels is the CEO of the State Financial Officers Foundation.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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