Former Vice President Al Gore lambasted Vanguard following the company’s decision to sever ties with the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative on Wednesday.
Companies joining the initiative must promise to move portfolio companies closer to eliminating net carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner. Vanguard opted to withdraw from the project in order to “provide the clarity our investors desire about the role of index funds and about how we think about material risks, including climate-related risks,” according to a statement.
Gore remarked in an interview that the move from Vanguard was “extremely disappointing,” as well as “irresponsible and shortsighted,” according to a report from Bloomberg. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and “An Inconvenient Truth” documentary maker added that he sees “a real, growing commitment” among executives to fight climate change.
“Unfortunately, it’s not everywhere,” he said. “The leadership of Vanguard isn’t a part of it.”
The pivot from Vanguard occurred hours after lawmakers in the state of Texas announced a hearing over asset managers’ alleged mismanagement of taxpayer dollars driven by ideological motives. Several attorneys general filed motions last week with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission arguing that Vanguard should be barred from purchasing shares in publicly traded utilities out of a concern that the company’s emissions reduction efforts would raise energy prices and decrease grid reliability.
Despite the backlash, Vanguard asserted that investors should be worried about financial risks posed by the environment. “Climate change, and the ongoing global response, will have far-reaching economic consequences for companies, financial markets, and investors, presenting a clear example of a material and multifaceted financial risk,” the company’s statement continued. “Vanguard has been taking steps to understand and attend to this risk to investors’ returns, including through our engagements with portfolio companies, policymakers, and broader industry efforts.”
Gore, who narrowly lost the 2000 election to former President George W. Bush, recently made headlines as a possible Biden administration appointee to lead the World Bank; the former Tennessee senator has labeled current World Bank President David Malpass, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, a climate change “denier.” A spokesperson for Gore said that the official “strongly believes that there needs to be new leadership at the World Bank, but has no intention of pursuing the role himself and would not accept it if offered.”
Gore now leads Generation Investment Management, which pushes for a “just and inclusive” transition to renewable energy and net zero emissions while boycotting fossil fuel companies. The firm considers climate change an “inseparable part of our fiduciary responsibility.”
Beyond efforts from Republican lawmakers, the move from Vanguard to reverse its commitment to the Net Zero Asset Managers project occurs as evidence of a broader market backlash against the environmental, social, and governance movement, also known as ESG, continues to mount.
An exclusive poll from The Daily Wire showed earlier this year that 64% of respondents believe “individual investors whose savings are being invested” should decide whether retirement and pension funds are allocated according to ESG standards, while 20% believe that “Wall Street asset managers” should make such decisions.