The Problem with ESG

What’s the problem with ESG? Is there one? George G breaks down the hypocrisy that exists and whether or not it’s a worthwhile initiative!

Jun 18, 2024 | Blogs, Podcast

About the Episode

Is ESG investing good or bad? What’s the problem with ESG? Is there one? And what about the role and responsibilities of corporations? Who should they be responsible to?

George G breaks down the hypocrisy that exists, whether it’s a worthwhile initiative, and how to vote with your dollars!

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George Grombacher

George Grombacher

Host

Episode Transcript

Sam Sanjay of where Assam blacking out the scenery, break in my mind, do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the SAM? Oh, I can see the sun, I can read it, do all those things more than that. I understand I get it, I totally get it. Before I launch into this, I want to let you know that I also believe and understand the importance of stewardship of being a good steward of our most valuable resources, which I talk a lot about time, attention, energy and money, good stewards of our relationships, good stewards of our communities, good stewards of our values, good stewards of the environment, and our parks in our resources and the earth. I’m a proponent of all of it. And, and I hold my liberty in the highest regard. I don’t want anybody telling me what I can do, or I cannot do. I do not want people telling me or compelling me to do things. I hate that. Keep your laws off off of me. Keep your ideas off him. You can share your ideas with me. But when you start compelling me, forcing me to do things based on what you believe to be correct, you’ve overstepped that’s a bridge too far. So hope that that makes sense. Hope that that makes sense. If you ever heard the term, boil the ocean, it’s a pretty good term, right? When you’re just trying to do all the things you’re trying to get it all done, cram it all in there. And I have a tendency to try to do that to try to do too many things. So many different ideas and want to get across and all this stuff. We can’t do it. We can’t serve 100 different masters not everything can be the most important thing. Because if everything is the most important thing, nothing is the most important thing. What is the sign that awesome song have to do with boiling the ocean. Gemma base camp, the base camp controversy some years ago now at this point probably is probably pre pandemic, and maybe right around that time. And the whole thing was that they got in hot water with their employees and guests and then the press and everybody piled on them because they said, We don’t want you talking about politics at work. We don’t want you using Slack channels or communication company communication to talk about politics. It’s like, oh my gosh, I can’t talk about politics at work. No. You’re here to do your job. Not to talk about the arts, or sports or politics or sex or whatever. You’re to do your job. Do your job. Do the thing that you’re supposed to do. Really trying to get this this this screw tightened. Could somebody hand me the hammer? Wait, why do you need a hammer? You need a screwdriver? No. Oh, got it. kind of use this hammer to tighten the screw. I think you get the idea here. So I recorded a podcast with my friend Centauri shout outs and Tari on this on the figured out podcast. And I came down on the side of it’s no no a company. They don’t need to make statements and come out in support of every cause. Just because just because some people think oh, what’s your position on this? That or the other thing. Our job here at XYZ company is to do this. We came into existence, our mission. Our purpose is to do this. It’s not to advocate for every cause environmental, social justice, whatever. It’s to execute on our game plan. It’s to follow our and meet our mission and live the values of our company. It’s important to have those but it’s not. It’s not an obligation. It’s not a requirement that we do everything. And this conversation I had with these with with my friends and co workers and everybody else people. I was talking to people like what’s the role of a company what’s the role of a corporation and the role of a corporation is to Make Money for shareholders. That’s what it is, who is a corporation responsible to legally fiduciary? From a fiduciary perspective and standard, the stockholders of the company are who the company and the officers of company are responsible to, you might not like it, you might want them to do a lot more, but they don’t have to. And here we are just going the absolute opposite way. And we’re at now we’re in a time where the pendulum swings back and forth. And I’m not saying I’m right, just sharing with you my perspective on it. Where it was, all of a sudden, everybody needed to post this, say that have an opinion on this, or do that. We have di N, E, S, G, and so many different acronyms saying, have to be doing these things. It just, it just goes strikes the biggest nerve in me, like I was talking about, I don’t want anybody telling me what to do. This is what I’m focused on. And I publicize it, this is what my mission is. And don’t tell me I need to do more, don’t tell me what to do. None of your business, your shareholder, my company, then maybe can have a conversation about it. That is who companies are responsible to this thing called Corporate Social Responsibility, came about in 2004. And the idea was that corporations are responsible to their stakeholders. And I’m sure that you’ve heard this term stakeholder capitalism. And that can include customers, employees, investors and the communities they operate in. So I don’t think that that’s a bad thing. But it involves the balancing of a company’s legal, economic, ethical and social responsibility to these stakeholders when they’re making decisions. CSR can include how a company manages its impact on the environment treats its employees, supports company, community activities, so on and so forth. That’s all fine. But then what happened? CSR corporate corporate social responsibility was the precursor to ESG, which is environmental, social, and governments. And that’s a natural evolution, or I suppose it’s a natural evolution of CSR that reflects basic business principles and meets the demands of the 21st century economy. So this is just stuff I ripped off the internet here, right. The shift from CSR to ESG reframes responsible business practices from reputation building to creating opportunities for business success. It originated in philanthropy, and focused on how companies contribute to the well being of the communities, okay. ESG is a strategic approach that enhances performance and opens up new opportunities for growth. ESG issues are inherently interconnected and require a cohesive approach to management that involves the entire leadership team and the board. It goes beyond CSR to demonstrate positive impact with data. For example, numerous studies show that investors are focusing on ESG and 85%, of investors considered ESG investing in 2020. Okay, so that’s four years ago. What’s bad about that? So what, what’s the big deal, George? Well, there’s so much going on here. On its face, it seems like a fine idea. I don’t I can’t imagine anybody would quarrel or quibble with what I just read. If I’m in a position to have a positive impact on lots of different things, why wouldn’t I do that? That being said, again, I don’t like when somebody or something, tries to force their values on me. Well, George, that’s not what’s going on here. That’s not what’s going on here. It’s not. It’s not I don’t agree. I think that’s exactly what’s going on here. And even that isn’t the end of the world. If you think that you’re correct. And we see a lot of people that are that we always have, we have the right to express our opinions. We have the right to protest and organize. That’s amazing. It’s really important, and say whatever you want. I am a free speech absolutist. I think we hear too much of that these days, but I am, say whatever you want, I don’t care. I get to say what I want to though. I hope that that doesn’t ruffle your feathers. But if you think that your cause is worthy one, well then by all means work to get it done. And more so than that. Now, when we’re talking about ESG I think it’s exciting because it’s the opportunity to really vote with our dollars to decide where it is you bank to decide how it is you want to invest and to go through and decide that there’s certain industries or sectors or companies that are not interested in investing with. That’s incredible. I am an advocate for that.

You get to make decisions on what you believe to be valuable and right and important. And then you can ask Keep your money accordingly. So not only can you post on social media, you can rent, rally, March, all of those things, then you can also vote with your dollars, which, you know, from having an impact perspective is one of the biggest things we’ve seen boycotts of companies. While I’m not necessarily a proponent of that has certainly changed behaviors. So nothing but a good thing. That’s awesome. Positive stuff. But let’s not pretend that big corporations really give a fuck about anything other than making money. Let’s stop pretending that, but you mean, good, all these good things these companies are doing in the name of ESG and D AI. Right, right. All of those virtuous good things, all these big companies are doing I got it. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Stakeholder capitalism is not about politics. It is capitalism. That’s what Larry Fink the CEO of our favorite company, Blackrock claimed in his annual letter to America CEOs a couple of years ago. And that letter, he called on corporate chiefs to stay true to their own company’s purpose. Putting your company’s purpose the foundation of your relationship with your stakeholders is critical to your long term success. Your company’s purpose is its north star in this tumultuous environment. It’s more important than ever, that your company and its management be guided by its purpose, whose purpose Mr. Fink’s four page letter invokes the word purpose eight times. Law whose purpose Exactly? Same letter, Mr. Frank also calls and CEOs to set short, medium and long term targets for greenhouse gas reduction. His demands are explicit. We asked you to issue reports consistent with the task force on climate related financial disclosures. BlackRock has a habit of making these demands on its portfolio companies. So that means the companies that it invests in so it has a habit of making demands for sustainable climate investing on the companies it invests in, got it. Okay. He claims he wants to stay true to the purposes of the companies they run while also demanding that they advanced the corporate purposes that Blackrock favors. But can you have it both ways? Hmm. And here it is. Take ExxonMobil 2018 The company’s guiding principle was clear. Exxon Mobil Corporation is committed to being the world’s premier petroleum and petrochemical company. Company stated that its first responsibility was to make money for its shareholders. Shocking what a damning admission by Exxon. And a couple of years ago, a very small investment firm called engine number one which held a point zero 2% stake in exon one three seats on exons 12. member board. engine number one waged an activist campaign claiming that Exxon should reduce its carbon emissions and become a global leader in profitable clean energy production. Just like that, instead of doing all that stuff you’re doing to make money for your stockholders, shareholders. We need you to do this instead. BlackRock, Exxon, second largest shareholder, you’re not going to believe it voted for the three climate focused board candidates. BlackRock claimed that its vote was motivated by concerns over exons lack of a clear climate change strategy. Every savvy market participant at the time knew that engine number ones proxy battle would, and wherever Blackrock cast its die. So not that many people realize that engine number one CEO, Jennifer grant CEO had been a managing director at Blackrock from 1999 to 2018. I know, I know, you’re not even gonna believe it. That’s unbelievable. 20 years, CEO of this little tiny, this little tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny investment firm. She was on Black Rocks payroll for 20 years. So, for the proxy battle Exxon had planned to increase global before all this happened. Exxon had planned to increase oil and gas production by 25% over the next five years. After the proxy battle Exxon plan to keep oil output at the lowest level two decades, a 20% decline from prior forecasts. More recently, it pledged Net Zero global emissions and its own operations by 2050. Exxon Mobil once had a clear purpose, but Blackrock didn’t want the American oil and gas company to be guided by it. BlackRock wanted the company to change it. That’s what Exxon did. Interesting. Okay. So, Blackrock wants all of its portfolio companies, all of the companies, it invests all the organizations that invest its money in to act accordingly. Interesting, but I think about that. This is where, like we always find fuckery. When it comes to BlackRock, you knew it was coming. Right. You know, it was coming as of April 30 2020, for BlackRock, you know, the folks really concerned with the environment, owned 1,549,527,020 shares of Petro China limited, which is almost 1% of the company. As of this year, Blackrock owned 1.5 billion shares of Petro China Company Limited almost 1% of the company. BlackRock also owns a China Fund. They own many China funds that focus on investments in China. And according to CNN, Americans are unwittingly funding black listed Chinese companies, a congressional panel says so indirect investment of Petro China, which if you don’t realize it, that’s an energy company in China. And then across multiple funds brought Blackrock is funding, providing money to two companies that the United States of America has put on a blacklist, saying that they are against our national security. It’s odd for a company so concerned about the environment to be investing so heavily in China. Just so you know. As of May of 2024, China had over 3000 operating coal fired power plants, the most in the world. China’s coal fired power plants generate more than half of the world’s coal electricity and accounted for almost 60% of China’s electricity. In 2023 2022, China improved the construction of 106 gigawatts of coal fired power, which the highest amount since 2015, and four times more than a 2021. This is equivalent to about 100, large coal fired power plants, which is enough to power the entire United Kingdom. China is the world’s largest producer, consumer user of coal derived electricity and generates more than half the world’s coal fired power. Talking about talking out of both sides of your mouth, world class world class virtue signaling, or is it that other thing? Could it be the other thing you know, when your money gets dirty? And you want to clean it or wash it? You think to herself, how can we clean this dirty money? How can we wash it? What can we use to wash this dirty money? Does anybody have any ideas? Why don’t we use that green stuff over there to wash it so we can green wash the money? truths out there? Truth is out there used to be there were for profit companies and not for profit companies, for profit companies or in money, you know, profit, the not for profit companies save the world. Can we do both? Can we boil the ocean? jury’s still out on that one. I’m howling at the moon. But you know, just because someone says something, doesn’t mean they mean it. You know how hard it is to start a search to start a company really hard to grow a company. It’s really really really hard to enjoy sustainable success. And by sustainable I mean long term financially viable. So

how to land this deal? There’s so much going on. I am an advocate for the truth and knowing what’s going on. I’m an advocate and advocate for using your critical thinking skills and making up your own mind on things. I’m an advocate for knowledge is power. I’m an advocate for autonomy and independence and personal liberties. I’m an advocate for you, keeping your fucking hands and laws All for me, stop trying to compel me to do things, especially when you are the biggest offender of it. I’m disgusted by hypocrisy. If Blackrock is the most hypocritical company out there, I don’t know what is, well, I slow down on that one. It’s top 10. It’s offensive, it’s gross. If you want to make decisions, and if you think that companies should operate a certain way, well then advocate that, that they do it. That’s great do that. If a cause it’s important to you pursue it, follow it, fight for it, advocate for it. I’m all about it. That’s awesome. Both for your dollar, but with your dollars. So many different ways that we can promote what we think is most important, certainly voting with your dollars is a huge way to do that. So I’m not against any of these things, because on their face, they’re not bad. The example I always use is that divorce isn’t bad. It just is. Profit isn’t bad. It just is ESG and di aren’t bad. They just are. They’re not good or bad. They’re just what they’re, they’re just what they are. It’s how they’re used. That makes it good or bad. How they’re implemented. That’s what makes it good or bad. And you get it. You’re a smart person. You understand what I’m getting at. But with your dollars, just don’t take Black Rocks word for it. Finally, friendly reminder. Never gonna be anybody more interested in your financial success than you are. So act accordingly.

 

 

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