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Beware of ESG Investing

In today’s Wall Street Journal, David Henderson and I draw a cautionary lesson from the new movie Air about ESG investing. A slice:

Investors should be even more wary when considering companies that pursue ESG. At the time of Mr. [Michael] Jordan’s sponsorship decision, everyone at least agreed that the lone goal of a company was to maximize value for shareholders. Under ESG investing, by contrast, conflicts arise not only over how best to pursue company goals but over what the goals are. In his 2022 testimony before the U.S. Joint Economic Committee, Hoover Institution economist Joshua Rauh noted that ESG investment “is plagued by inconsistent and changing definitions that ultimately have reduced managerial accountability to shareholders.” Because maximum shareholder value is no longer management’s exclusive aim, managers will wrangle endlessly over which goals to pursue and how to trade them off against one another and against shareholder value. That’s bad for both investors and the economy.

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