Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk blasted Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing early Wednesday morning.
In response to a Fortune article about German authorities raiding the offices of Deutsche Bank over allegations of “greenwashing” — in other words, falsely exaggerating claims to corporate social responsibility — Musk commented, “I have yet to see an ESG list that *isn’t* fraudulent.”
I have yet to see an ESG list that *isn’t* fraudulent
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2022
Musk’s statement on social media comes after Tesla, a company with explicit green energy goals, was snubbed from the S&P 500’s ESG Index — even as oil company Exxon Mobil remained on the list, according to CNBC. Musk has publicly criticized ESG on multiple occasions; in March, for instance, he said that ESG rules “have been twisted into insanity.”
Common ESG objectives pursued by companies include making certain green energy commitments or tapping a certain number of racial minorities to serve as executives. In essence, ESG aligns firms with a progressive agenda — even if political or social activism has nothing to do with their brand identities or corporate missions.
Nevertheless, Deutsche Bank is by no means the only firm to allegedly embellish claims of corporate wokeness.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) slapped BNY Mellon with a $1.5 million penalty last week for “misstatements and omissions” regarding ESG funds the investment bank managed. According to the agency, BNY Mellon’s investment adviser practice “represented or implied in various statements that all investments in the funds had undergone an ESG quality review” between July 2018 and September 2021, even though “that was not always the case.”
Also, last month, Stuart Kirk — the global head of responsible investing at multinational bank HSBC’s asset management division — faced heat from executives for a presentation he delivered about “why investors need not worry about climate risk.” Kirk accused public officials of trying to “out-hyperbole the next guy” by exaggerating the financial risks of climate change and likened concern over the climate to Y2K. Kirk remarked that there has always been “some nut job telling me about the end of the world” throughout his three-decade career in the finance world.
Though many Americans want companies to advance certain causes beyond their bottom lines, an exclusive Daily Wire poll conducted by Echelon Insights showed last week that most American investors would rather see companies pursue profits rather than pontificating on political matters.
While 29% of respondents to the poll agreed it is a “good thing” for companies to leverage their financial power for political or social means supported by executives, 58% — twice as many — said it is a “bad thing.” The Daily Wire poll also found that most investors prefer to focus on profits instead of ESG when they choose assets of their own — and most believe that other investors should have the same opportunity.
However, leading asset management companies like BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street — which oversee a collective $21 trillion in value — often use their clients’ funds for purported ESG goals. In response, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy recently launched a company called Strive to push an “excellence capitalism” approach focused solely on profits.
“Depoliticizing corporate America should not be a left-wing or right-wing issue,” Ramaswamy told The Daily Wire last week. “It has nothing to do with partisan politics. An apolitical private sector is a requirement for an otherwise divided country to be able to come together. It’s a sort of sanctuary away from politics. Once we lose that, it’s the beginning of the end of the American experiment. Large asset managers like BlackRock are largely responsible for it.”