There is good news in the fight against “woke capital.” And, of course, there is bad news. The good news is very good and, frankly, unexpected. The bad news is very bad and, just as frankly, was entirely expected. In this “fight,” we are winning a battle but still losing the war.
The good news – which, as we said, is very good – is that those who favor free and fair capital markets appear to be making real headway in convincing the rest of the world that ESG – environmental, social, and governance investing – is a scam. As we noted last week, the decision by Harry and Meghan, the exiled British royals, to join the ESG movement is, quite possibly, the movement’s “jumping the shark” moment. But that’s not the only sign that we’ve hit peak ESG and are now on the descent. Consider, for example, this recent piece from a very high-profile political magazine, titled, fittingly enough, “Climate-Friendly Investment Funds Are a Scam”:
Read enough financial news these days and you’ll see a lot of stories about “ESG investing,” which stands for “environmental, social, and governance.” The trend is meant to encourage, broadly, socially responsible and environmentally friendly investing, rather than a pure focus on how much money an investor earns. At the most basic level, ratings firms grade companies on their impact on the environment, the quality or equity of their internal governance, and, uh, their impact on “society.” Then a bunch of those companies might get bundled together in a fund that promises a high overall ESG rating. What ties those three factors together? Mainly just a wish to make money investing without feeling bad about it and a desire to profit from people with that wish….
ESG investing, like crypto, is a major business trend, with Bloomberg predicting $1 trillion entering ESG funds over the next five years….
Unfortunately, the other thing you learn if you read enough financial news these days is that none of the feel-good stories are all that true. Even if there are fortunes to be reaped in batteries or wind power, “sustainable capitalism” is still much more about the capitalism part than the sustainable part….
Pitching ESG as a way to beat the market seems like a clever way to convince capitalists to invest in sustainability. In practice, it has trained them to pretend their investments are sustainable.
For the record, this story was published in The New Republic – the left-leaning magazine cofounded by Herbert Croly, the intellectual godfather of American Progressivism. And while the critique here is one that favors massive government intervention, a complaint that ESG is never going to change the world and that we should quit pretending that it will, it’s still part of the growing body of literature pointing out that ESG is, first and foremost, about making money for the grifters who have best positioned themselves to do so. ESG is garbage. We know that, and it’s becoming clear that they know it as well.
This is a victory, and we should be grateful for it.
At the same time, however, we must also acknowledge that ESG is just a small part of the problem associated with “woke capital” more generally.
Consider, for example, this story from yesterday:
Chinese internet users have lost one of their last avenues to foreign news after the Yahoo Finance app disappeared from Apple’s store, as the Communist Party intensifies its censorship of information from abroad.
The Yahoo app republishes news from foreign media organisations, including outlets whose websites are blocked in China, such as Bloomberg and Reuters, as well as stock market data.
This allowed users to skirt official censorship bans, a feature that likely drew the ire of Chinese authorities….
Days before the removal of the Yahoo app was detected last week, it carried a story by Bloomberg about China’s crackdown on the tech industry.
The piece detailed how Apple had thus far managed to stay on Beijing’s good side – including by taking down mobile apps at the request of the authorities.
Over the last few weeks, at least nine other apps that offer users religious materials – texts, prayers, interpretations and podcasts – have also been taken down from Apple’s mainland China app store.
There he is, America’s favorite Social Justice Warrior Tim Cook, once again doing the bidding of Xi Jinping. That’s the CEO of the LARGEST COMPANY IN THE WORLD, THE LARGEST COMPANY THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN, ensuring that the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are happy and that access to information is restricted as much as possible.
Consider as well this story, from early last month:
Amazon.com Inc plans to take a more proactive approach to determine what types of content violate its cloud service policies, such as rules against promoting violence, and enforce its removal, according to two sources, a move likely to renew debate about how much power tech companies should have to restrict free speech.
Over the coming months, Amazon will expand the Trust & Safety team at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) division and hire a small group of people to develop expertise and work with outside researchers to monitor for future threats, one of the sources familiar with the matter said.
It could turn Amazon, the leading cloud service provider worldwide with 40% market share according to research firm Gartner, into one of the world's most powerful arbiters of content allowed on the internet, experts say.
Amazon Web Services, recall, is the company that killed the social media app Parler this past January because it determined that Parler was naughty. Indeed, when it comes to tech censorship, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest are small potatoes by comparison to AWS, which is now, apparently, going to be more proactive. Because it can.
Meanwhile, Disney is trying desperately to figure how to get its Chinese patrons to permit the release of the latest Marvel film, “Eternals,” which was expected to draw huge Chinese audiences and deliver the company huge profits. Unfortunately for the House of Mouse, however, eight years ago, the film’s director, Chloe Zhou said mean things about the CCP, and for the shockingly thin-skinned ChiComms, there is no statute of limitations on mean words. Disney has submitted the film to Chinese censors and is doing everything it can to convince them to allow its release. Given Disney’s history with the CCP, one might legitimately question how far, exactly the company will go in pursuit of that end.
We could go on, we suppose, but we suspect that you get the point, which is that “woke capital” persists and will continue to persist even after ESG has been thoroughly discredited. Indeed, we’d argue that we’ve already reached that point and that anyone who is paying attention knows full well that ESG is not what it pretends to be. Yet American business continues to move in a woke-ish direction.
The long war is just beginning, in short, and the odds are against us. Still, we should all be grateful and glad when we achieve victories, no matter how small or seemingly fleeting.