Become an 1819 Member

Basic

$10.99/month

1819

$18.19/month

Premium

$50.99/month
Sign up

Have you heard of the latest woke criteria by which we must structure our lives? This one is called ESG, and evaluates companies on behalf of investors. The criteria stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance criteria and is a method for judging “socially responsible investing.”

Environmental evaluations look at whether a company ​​seeks to lower greenhouse gas emissions, uses renewable energy sources and the like. The social angle tests if a business supports LGBTQ rights and encourages diversity, has policies to protect against sexual misconduct, pays fair wages and more. Governance looks at the diversity of leadership, along with how CEOs are paid compared to employees and customer relations.

Companies allow an ESG expert to evaluate them and then release a report on how well they scored.

The ESG examines some reasonable issues, for instance, the responsible handling of toxic waste, product recalls and employee treatment. But those who invest based on ESG metrics call themselves “mission-related” investors, so that’s a red flag. I can agree companies shouldn’t dump chemicals in the river and give kids cancer, but their “score” also shouldn’t rely on their “attitude” about climate change, which is entirely subjective.

It’s when liberal ideas get normalized and lumped in with reasonable policies that such scoring systems become problematic. Having a good sexual harassment prevention policy should not be put on the same level as approving of gay relationships. I would prefer to invest in businesses that have a good relationship with suppliers, customers, and their own employees, but at the same time I can disagree they need a $20 minimum wage that customers end up paying for. But all these requirements are combined, so those who oppose ESG ratings have been set up for a perfect straw man attack: “You don’t care about employee treatment, ethical management, or keeping our land healthy. You only care about money!”

While some of these are good factors to consider when investing, they aren’t necessarily the most important! I want to know if a company keeps its promises, delivers on its products, maintains good working relationships and is constantly innovating and looking to the future. I want to know if I’ll accomplish my objective when investing - which is to make money. I don’t care if they’re entirely like me or believe in all the same social-button issues.

But these days, that certainly seems to be the priority, especially among millennials. A recent Morgan Stanley Bank survey found that nearly 90% of millennial investors “were interested in pursuing investments that more closely reflect the values they hold”. Though Biden’s insistence on picking a Black woman for the Supreme Court shows how our entire society has embraced “mission-related” decision-making as a priority.

We’ve commodified people. Swipe right if you like a person; if not, keep scrolling. Join 10 groups on Facebook until you find your crowd. Don’t settle for less. With so many choices out there, and such broad reach, it’s actually become a mark against you if you can’t find “your people”. It’s seen as laziness or social incompetence. People who can’t find their crowd will feel like there’s something wrong with them. Others will tell them to keep searching, as though we’re on a quest, and have failed to meet the milestones unless we successfully cocoon ourselves among clones. To do otherwise is perhaps a sign you don’t understand yourself or aren’t defined by any sort of resolve.

I wouldn’t mind the ESG if it stayed optional. If you only want to support businesses that plant trees and donate to Planned Parenthood and are willing to take a smaller check in your pocket, as a result, go for it. It’s a free country.

But we know liberals are not satisfied to strengthen their own causes. They need to force the world to agree with them.

The Corporate Finance Institute reported that “increasingly, there is consensus among many regulators that some form of standardized ESG disclosures will be required of publicly-traded companies on most major global stock exchanges”.

Of course, this means they will have to submit themselves and their businesses to these standards, but I think that’s actually appealing to millennials.

In a country that’s becoming increasingly post-Christian, young generations have grown up without a standard of morality. Even further, we grew up with grades as essentially the only system by which we were judged. While prior generations may have held jobs earlier in life, or trained more under their parents, millennials experienced a brutal school regimen designed for college prep. Suddenly we entered the workforce, and there’s an entirely different standard of evaluation. You don’t get an A at the end of every workday if you do a good job. Mostly you only hear from your bosses if you do poorly. It’s like turning in years’ worth of assignments and having to guess at your grade, only ever being told if you get an F. We need performance reports. It’s terrible having to guess at what your boss thinks of you, if they’re satisfied and what specifically you’re doing right or wrong. “Good job” isn’t good enough because it’s so vague it could be fake. This is why millennials have a reputation for being needy in the workforce, but we were trained to rely on daily numerical feedback that affirms or corrects.

The ESG, then, is a great relief. It’s the liberal corporate 10 Commandments. It offers millennial investors and business leaders alike a standard by which they can judge themselves and each other. Of course, some want to expand it globally. They desire a clear roadmap for how to maintain their own reputation in front of the world.

How do we respond? Should we create a conservative social standard by which to judge businesses? Many conservatives already boycott businesses that donate to abortion providers or LGBTQ+ groups. Is it naive to try to maintain a neutral, purely fiscal outlook?

Many Christians, when responding to complaints that we bring religion into politics, protest that there’s no such thing as politics without religion. For there’s no human who does not have a religion. Humanists have tried to redefine “religion” as a system of belief that involves supernatural beings, but why should we use their definition? Every human holds a core set of beliefs and principles, or a religion, that guides their actions. Many liberals make policy based on their religion of naturalistic relativistic humanism, just as surely as some conservatives make policy guided by their belief in God.

Can we say the same of business? Is it impossible to invest and make money without being guided by our respective religions? If we break down “business” or “investing” into their core elements, they are an exchange of goods based on a series of covenants between humans. What do you base your promises on? Reverence of God? Fear of lawyers? Social commonality? Long-term pursuit of wealth?

These reasons exist, whether we openly acknowledge them at the table or not. I respect liberals for being willing to lay out their tenets and clearly state their intention to proselytize the entire global business community into accepting them. Why should conservatives hide our personal reasons for how we operate?

Should we hit back by playing their own game and include a set of criteria that addresses whether companies use illegal immigrants for labor if they’ve fired employees who don’t ascribe to liberal policy and whether the company bans people from bringing firearms legally into the facility?

The thought exhausts me. Of course we should be able to open an investing app on our phones and move around our money without worrying about gay people or immigration policy. Each area of our life does not have to address every other issue at the same time. It’s inefficient.

But we don’t actually invest and make business decisions without consulting our principles. Should we compartmentalize Christianity, conservative values and our monetary pursuits? Sometimes liberals seem more devoted to their religion than we are. They use more discernment when it comes to the growth of cabbages than we use when it comes to companies that pay for the deaths of unborn children.

“I want to be able to make money without thinking about morality.” Is that really the attitude we want to model?

Our beliefs are going to be involved. We need to decide how. I long for it to be said of us: “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices" (Prov 11:10, NIV).

Caylah Coffeen is the host of Prayers For Life Radio in Huntsville, and a millennial who speaks up for truth and a future as bright as the stars. Her column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information tCommentary@1819News.com.

Become an 1819 Member

Sign up