A recent poll suggests that behind closed doors, an overwhelming majority of financial executives do not support the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) movement.
Among other common ESG goals is the embrace of green energy usage, even when reliance upon traditional energy sources is more fiscally prudent. According to a CNBC survey released on Thursday, a mere 25% of chief financial officers support climate reporting proposals from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) moving closer to implementation.
Roughly 55% of financial managers are opposed to the rule, while 35% are “strongly” opposed. Within the sample of 21 executives were multiple Fortune 500 CFOs.
CNBC reported that there exists “evidence of a split” between technology companies desiring to help other firms process the data requirements with ESG rules and “a broader set” of CFOs struggling to “understand how the costs their companies will incur in making new disclosures will generate a return on investment.”
The SEC requirements would require companies to report the material impact climate change presents to operations, the impact of “climate-related events” such as severe weather on transaction activities, and risk management processes used to mitigate climate risk. A salient issue for executives is “the lack of a clear correlation between the climate data and financial statements,” according to CNBC.
Those who invest in companies are of a similar mind. Earlier this year, an exclusive poll from The Daily Wire showed that American investors would prefer that companies commit solely to the pursuit of profits. Although 29% of respondents agreed it is a “good thing” for companies to leverage their financial power for political or social means, 58% said it is a “bad thing.”
The White House is nevertheless pursuing a “whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy,” according to a speech delivered by President Joe Biden days after his inauguration. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an entity in the Treasury Department charged with regulating and supervising banks, recently tapped New York State Department of Financial Services climate czar Yue Chen as its new chief climate risk officer.
The Federal Reserve, which is separate from the federal government, announced on Thursday that six of the nation’s largest banks will take part in a pilot process to examine economic risks posed by climate change, although the exercise carries no regulatory implications. The central bank will also work alongside the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to forward environmental initiatives within the private sector.
“As our nation, and the world, grapple with how to respond to climate change, banks are increasingly focused on the risks that climate change brings to their balance sheets,” Federal Reserve Board of Governors member Michael Barr remarked in a recent speech. “The Federal Reserve is working to understand how climate change may pose risks to individual banks and to the financial system. The Federal Reserve’s mandate in this area is important, but narrow, focused on our supervisory responsibilities and our role in promoting a safe and stable financial system.”
Beyond fiscal and monetary policymakers, large asset management firms such as Vanguard and BlackRock have played active roles in advancing ESG among fellow actors in the private sector. The latter company revealed in its investment stewardship report that it pressed “voting action on climate issues” upon 53 of its portfolio companies in 2020 while putting 191 others “on watch.”
“We’re seeing evidence every day that climate risk is investment risk,” BlackRock CEO Larry Fink claimed during a recent panel event at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. “People are waking up to that, and that’s created this tectonic shift.”