BlackRock Abandons Term ’ESG,’ Rebrands Due to Red State Boycott
The woke catchphrase “ESG” (standing for environment, social, and governance) has grown so toxic that he has stopped using it, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said Sunday at the Aspen Ideas Festival. The investment management giant has drawn increasing scrutiny from conservative state governments for prioritizing left-wing cultural priorities over its fiduciary duty to its clients.
Fink claimed that the term “ESG” was being “weaponized” by politicians on the Right and said he was “ashamed of being part of this conversation.” He explained, “I’m not going to use the word ‘ESG’ because it’s been misused by the far Left and the far Right.” Up to 11 state governments have now taken action to remove more than $5 billion of state assets, such as pension funds, from the management of BlackRock and other ESG-focused investment firms.
In the largest divestment to date, Florida reinvested $2 billion in state funds. “Florida’s Treasury Division is divesting from BlackRock because they have openly stated they’ve got other goals than producing returns,” said Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis in announcing the move last fall.
Fink explained that Florida’s decision to pull $2 billion in assets hurt BlackRock in 2022. But he hurried to add that BlackRock, which manages $9.2 trillion in investor funds, still had its best year ever in 2022, with net flows of $200 billion from U.S. clients.
BlackRock explicitly embraces “transformational change towards sustainability” and other ESG objectives in its investment strategies, such as “integrating climate and sustainability considerations into investment processes.” It “took voting action on climate issues” against 53 companies in 2020 and placed 191 other companies “on watch.”
Since 2021, BlackRock has pressured Abbott Labs to disclose a plan to promote racial justice, urged UPS to reduce its carbon emissions more quickly, and pressed Home Depot to “oversee an independent racial equity audit.”
When pressed on his comments later in the presentation, Fink clarified that the change he proposed was merely semantic. “I never said I was ashamed. I’m not ashamed. I do believe in conscientious capitalism,” he said. “We talk a lot about decarbonization, we talk a lot about governance … or social issues, if that’s something we need to address.”
Fink’s rebranding effort reflects an accelerating pattern of shifting labels that describe the actions and policies considered desirable by those on the political Left. Over the years, observers have noted that leftists have invented terms like “politically correct” and “woke” as coded self-descriptions of their preferred behaviors. Once conservatives catch on to a term and begin using it pejoratively, leftists invent a new term and the cat-and-mouse game continues. Thus, “politically correct” and “woke” have largely given way to new vocabulary, including terms like ESG, “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI), and “social emotional learning” (SEL).
As soon as conservatives catch on to the meaning — particularly when elected officials act to crack down on unauthorized promotion of these ideas — leftists embedded in business, education, and government agencies exchange the phrase for a new euphemism and proceed with their same agenda. Author James Lindsay noted this pattern at work in Fink’s rebranding effort. “ESG rebranding (to ‘conscientious capitalism’) underway,” he tweeted. “PS: Larry Fink hates this attention, so keep it on him.”
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.