GOP’s war on ESG could come back to bite it

Failing to address climate change via investments endangers constituents (and the economy)

Less than two months before Hurricane Ian swept across Florida, its governor, Ron DeSantis, referred to ESG investing as a danger to economic freedom.

His office even released a statement saying the practice sought to “advance a woke ideological agenda,” and that investors taking into account environmental, social and governance-related matters into their decisions were part of the “corporate cartel elites,” whose “victims” include conservative Americans, those who support the Second Amendment and soon-to-be retirees.

Naturally, he then proposed that Florida State Board of Administration fund managers should be banned from taking ESG data into account while investing Florida pension money.

“Banning [ESG] considerations is not only going to have long-term negative effects … it is also going against what Republicans usually stand for — increasing growth and profits.” VentureESG co-founder Johannes Lenhard

By September, Florida was hit by Hurricane Ian, one of the strongest storms to make landfall in the state in recent memory. Towns were decimated, people died and roadways collapsed.

DeSantis, who once opposed an aid package for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, called upon President Joe Biden for relief. He’s walking a fine line in addressing the aftermaths of climate-exacerbated disasters while keeping just enough distance to pander to his base.

One might assume ESG investing would be popular in Florida, given its coastal status, history of deadly storms and increased likelihood of having cities flooded by the ocean. The Sunshine State stands to see an earlier and more destructive impact from climate change than other areas of the U.S.

ESG investing, in this sense, could affect its climate crisis, even if modestly.

Yet the topic of ESG investing is caught in the webs of a right-wing political movement. It’s too ironic that states such as Florida and Texas, which are likely to experience some of the most severe consequences of climate change, are stuck with leaders seemingly doing all they can to make matters worse.