New Document Reveals Woke Shareholder Activists’ Battleplan For 2021

Public attention has focused on the corporate world since the Battle for Georgia began, and the scene has cleared. Corporations have taken sides against the fundamental foundation of our democracy – free and fair elections.

Scott Shepard

Scott Shepard

More clarity, with less attention, came in recent weeks from the very pens of the hard-left shareholder activists who control the “ESG” movement. ESG stands for “environmental, social and governance,” and the movement in support of ESG measures has billed itself as a movement to make “business do good” in a broadly non-partisan, who-could-disagree sort of way. But the ESG crowd’s recently published battleplan for 2021 reveals that, for them, the attempt at woke corporate control emerging in Georgia is merely a beginning.

More than 100 CEOs from the country’s largest corporations held a council of war last weekend. Its purpose: to defeat Georgia’s duly elected representatives in their efforts to make the state’s elections reliable. The legislation requires voters to show ID and seeks to avoid untraced boxes full of ballots from being produced at 3 a.m. after polls close and election monitors have been sent home in order to undermine election results. The CEOs target these minimal, sensible reforms with their economic and social power, finding them an “undemocratic […] disease of voter restrictions.”

This abuse of language applies throughout the ESG campaign as well. Each year the As You Sow organization publishes a compendium of the ESG proposals submitted to U.S. corporations by it and members of its broad, left-wing activist coalition. A review of those proposals establishes the point: ESG is not about businesses doing good. It is about forcing the Great Awokening even further into American business.

This year’s proposals have adopted the worst excesses of wokeness. The coalition has long pushed to subject the workplace to racist and sexist quotas and to constant outcome-based measurements and metrics that would reverse Dr. King’s great injunction: they would eliminate both free will and the content of one’s workday character to reduce every decision to a contemplation of the color of one’s skin and the content of one’s undergarments. To these efforts – nearly 100 proposals in 2021, excluding withdrawals – the coalition has this year added demands for active “antiracism,” which we all understand by now to be systemicallygrounded in horrifying racism; and “equity,” which, meaning nothing, can mean everything. These proposals would bring racism and sexism to every facet of our work lives, forever. “Try to be less white” is, for the ESG crowd, not an accident, but a preview.

Another fifty-plus proposals will go to corporations under the false pretense of saving the earth from climate change. But they will have no effect on the climate. As we have considered before in this space, and I have written about elsewhere, climate science is hard. It has been tainted by political influence and distorted almost beyond salvaging. The doom mongers have been wrong again and again over the last 40 years, and provide no clear reason why they should be considered more reliable this time.

But that’s not (just) why these proposals can have no effect on the climate. They can have no effect on the climate because they have no effect on the big new carbon producers, particularly India and, naturally, China. All they can do is make living in America costlier and less rewarding for normal Americans. Again, this is a goal, not an accident. It must be. China’s and India’s carbon futures (and presents) are not a secret.

More than sixty proposals seek to force corporations to lobby only for hard-left causes, even if those causes would undermine the long-term profitability of the companies themselves, while barring them from supporting proposals that would be very much in their best interests. These proposals are couched in deep concern for the excess of money in politics and – of course – in concern that no companies stand in the way of even the most unhinged and graft-driven “green” legislation. But the targets of these proposals are, and for many years have been, only organizations that support center/right causes, such as honest voting, viewpoint-nondiscrimination, business-supporting levels of taxation, and the like.

The law clearly limits CEOs to actions taken for the benefit of the corporations they run on behalf of the owners, the shareholders – regardless of luncheon-club assertions to the contrary. So a fairly new set of proposals asks corporations to change themselves explicitly into public-benefit (charitable) corporations. As I discussed in this space recently, this would be a terrible move for corporations. Shareholders, even the ones who want the long march through the institutions to capture corporate life as well, don’t actually want to give their savings to straight-up charities. And CEOs want to be policy czars without oversight – not managers of real charities. But the logic of stakeholder capitalism demands this shift. Tiny kudos to the coalition for calling them on the fraud at the base of their embrace of “stakeholder capitalism.” Just a shame about the result.

Last, a few proposals illuminate the scene fully. Despite an ever-higher level of censorship against any assertions of common-sense center/right positions, such as Governor DeSantis’ expert roundtable about the really efficacy of statist lockdowns and masks, the As You Sow coalition is not satisfied. More censorship is required to clamp down even further against free society at home. And a few proposals seek the unilateral nuclear disarmament of the United States just as real war-level tensions with China become palpable.

Crushing liberty at home while disarming against a Communist menace. There’s your ESG, right there.

ESG is just – not more or less – a hard-left attempt to take over American corporations, and through them American society generally (the bits the left doesn’t already control). It then fully intends to silence, and to cut off financing for, anyone who dares to challenge them.

We’ve been warned.


Scott Shepard is a fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and Deputy Director of its Free Enterprise Project. This was first published by Townhall Finance.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.