Progressive environmental, social and governance metrics are giving investment funds an excuse to discriminate against states with conservative values.
Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick expressed concern over ESG funds condemning states with pro-life cultures, especially as the Supreme Court reportedly prepares to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the abortion debate to the states where it constitutionally belongs. Stockholders for Walmart, Lowe’s and other retailers were urged to consider abortion-related proposals at their most recent shareholder meetings. Walmart stockholders rejected getting involved in the abortion debate.
“Those decisions really have nothing to do with the underlying credit quality of a state government or of a corporation that is operating in that state,” Fitzpatrick says. “If they’re successful in making this a key component of how financial institutions look at credit risk at large, it’s going to drive up the cost for taxpayers in states that don’t subscribe to this ideology that we should intentionally hamstring our own economies in the name of environmentalism or some type of social cause.”
Common ESG objectives pursued by corporations may involve setting certain green energy commitments or tapping a certain number of women to serve as executives. In essence, ESG conforms the nation’s most influential companies to a progressive agenda, even if political or social activism has nothing to do with their brand identities or corporate missions.
“They are calling attention to political factors that are subjective, and that opens the door to being able to borrow in the capital markets at a less advantageous rate than would be indicated by the credit rating by itself,” Utah Treasurer Marlo Oaks said. “It has the potential to increase the bond costs for states that don’t align with the underlying ESG ideology.”
For states such as West Virginia, which ranked among the top six states for energy production as of 2019, ESG funds pushing green power are particularly threatening to employment and public finances.
“They’re trying to punish us based on our culture, our economy and our industries, making it more expensive for us to do things like build schools, build roads, build hospitals — all those types of projects that get bonds floated out there for them,” West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore said. “They’re trying to coerce us into conforming to their agenda, and they’re doing that by trying to financially punish us.”
Moore alluded to the rising cost of gas in the United States and around the world amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which occurs as the Biden administration has nixed expansions to the Keystone XL Pipeline and dragged its feet on issuing oil and gas permits.
“If we’re going to be an energy independent country, you need states like West Virginia,” Moore said. “We could be helping our allies over in Europe if these people would just let us build pipelines to get gas out of West Virginia.”
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice