The tide is turning against woke agendas in corporate America. Just recently, Vanguard’s CEO Tim Buckley announced that his investment firm — the largest or second-largest in the world, depending on how you measure it — will no longer be committed to so-called environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing or other “net-zero” initiatives.
“Our research indicates that ESG investing does not have any advantage over broad-based investing,” he said in an interview.
This comes after Buckley had previously withdrawn Vanguard from the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative. This initiative, which garnered $59 trillion in commitments from corporations around the world, commits companies to comply with the Paris Agreement’s objective of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Such a commitment, Buckley said, is incompatible with the fiduciary duties of asset managers like Vanguard.
Why? Because ESG funds have simply never outperformed the market as a whole. Yet they charge outrageous fees claiming to help the planet and other social agendas.
So one of the world’s biggest asset managers has taken a major step. Shareholders demanding basic financial responsibility applaud Buckley for it. We at the 1792 Exchange applaud him as well. But as President Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” Vanguard may be removing itself from one net-zero alliance and de-emphasizing ESG. But that’s a long way from no longer supporting leftist causes in general.
The next steps they and other asset managers can take include:
- Not remaining a member of CERES, a U.S.-based net-zero alliance but with more vague commitments.
- Not voting proxies for shareholder resolutions pushing ESG and other ideological agendas, including those promoted by “As You Sow.”
- Not supporting board members who push ESG.
- Not working with BlackRock and State Street to push ESG and other ideological agendas through votes and “engagement” with CEOs.
- Not blocking distributions from Donor Advised Funds to groups that are unpopular with leftists, such as those misidentified as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The market would flood Vanguard with cash if it took these steps.
Why? Because most Americans seem greatly opposed to turning corporate America into ideological battlegrounds. Over 75 percent of those surveyed by the Trafalgar Group/Convention of States Action say they are “more likely” to patronize a business “that stayed politically neutral and tolerated viewpoints of employees and customers across the board.”
Consumers and investors will reward corporations that pivot back to a neutral ideological position that avoids pushing a bias on customers and employees, and return to actual — not greenwashed — financial stewardship.
There are several other steps any public company can do to follow suit. First, companies should remove any constraints or pledges that prohibit them from fulfilling their financial obligations to shareholders. ESG and net-zero pledges run counter to the interests of shareholders and companies. The exceptions are those milking ESG “rent-seeking” and taxpayer subsidies.
Second, corporations should refrain from compiling exclusion lists or making speech regulations. These sorts of methods run contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment and invite the subjective judgment of employees in an environment where it is critical to remain objective and collaborative.
Third, companies should untie themselves from politically charged social causes. In the Buttonwood Agreement, which established America’s first stock exchange in 1792, the signers included people of different faiths, political views, and even those who fought on opposite sides of the Revolutionary War. But they shared a common belief that such views should not interfere with honest and profitable commerce. America’s public companies should readopt this standard.
We are seeing positive movement, but more remains to be done. Leftists successfully weaponized and politicized corporations. Tension rises everywhere this divisive model spreads, replacing the basics of good business with rancorous practices that divide employees and customers. That’s bad for business long-term.
That’s why so many Americans are rejecting woke orthodoxy in schools and business. It not only doesn’t work, but it’s exhausting for all involved.
Let’s give credit where credit is due when companies realize they’ve made an error. We’re thankful Vanguard has started righting the ship. Most Americans want it to continue fixing what’s broken. And we’re more than happy to help it — and others — find solutions to get it right and be more profitable. In the coming weeks, our team will be releasing other tools to help companies take steps toward ideological neutrality.