ESG Standards Are Predicated on Cronyism

AP Photo/Salvatore Laporta

(The opinions expressed in guest op-eds are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of

State legislators are definitely over the target. The Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) bills being considered in several states that seek to protect consumers and small businesses are getting a lot of attention. Bank lobbyists are aggressively opposing these bills as government meddling and a threat to the free market. But they must be worried because now they are calling in the big guns: The Chamber of Commerce. Because nothing embodies the free market quite like the Chamber of Commerce.


As these bills are being considered, the large banks are turning to large and powerful corporations, and the associations they prop up, to oppose any efforts to protect the rights of individuals and small businesses. Lobbyists talk of “free market,” “independent businesses,” and “free enterprise” in such glowing terms it almost brings a tear to the eye. The only thing missing at these hearings is someone starting a slow clap after one of these free-market independence speeches. But the reality is they are hiding behind those words. The economic system they support is not free-market capitalism, it is corporate cronyism.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports a market-based approach to climate change, which may sound good to people worried about climate change. But what does this “market-based” approach look like in practice?

An article in Bloomberg discusses one such “market-based” approach: the Net Zero Insurance Alliance, a group of the largest insurance companies in the world who have jointly pledged to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by adopting Net-Zero 2050. This group considered a proposal to “include a commitment to exit coal insurance” in the terms of membership in the alliance, however, this proposal was scrapped on advice from legal counsel saying this level of alliance could trigger antitrust violations.


Now, antitrust is a major initiative for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but how does one reconcile that with efforts to align banking, investment, insurance, and large corporations with government regulators?

The Bloomberg article shows how these Net-Zero 2050 alliances intend to address antitrust concerns. The Net Zero Insurance Alliance is part of a larger group, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, a group of 450 companies with combined assets exceeding $130 trillion, according to the article. Further, Butch Bacani, program leader of the UN’s “Environment Programme’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative” is labeled a “key architect of the alliance.” The response of the Alliance, the UN, the European Union, and the U.K. to anti-trust concerns is simply to rewrite antitrust laws to carve out “collective action towards net-zero emissions.” After all, the article concludes, “Taking a position on fossil fuels, especially coal, is critical to reaching net zero as the burning of thermal coal is the single largest contributor to the increase in global temperatures.” Too big to fail is now big enough to collude.

State legislators are beginning to see what they are up against in pushing back on the ESG movement. The business community in these states acknowledges they all have ESG policies in place and legislation to protect vital state interests is not acceptable. One type of legislation working its way through legislatures in several states seeks to identify businesses that are limiting or refusing to do business with key state business sectors such as oil and gas, agriculture, and mining.


In fighting these bills, large businesses are admitting they are implementing policies that run counter to vital state interests. Moreover, by killing these efforts, they expect each state to continue funneling public money in support of these policies. The businesses aligned with Net-Zero 2050 initiatives are emboldened because they believe these efforts are far enough along that they can now be honest about what they are doing.

Lobbyists fighting these legislative efforts argue that these are independent businesses, that these bills are nothing more than government intrusion within the free market. They ignore the fact that alliances and collusion required to implement the Net-Zero 2050 initiative have no place in free-market capitalism.

It is also important to understand that when lobbyists for large banks and the Chamber testify that government should not dictate or meddle in how a business operates, what they are really saying is that state and local government should not have a voice. They gladly accept the meddling by Washington, DC, the UN, and international governments, but they want state lawmakers to understand they have no seat at the table.

The fights taking place in state legislatures throughout the country reveal the true scope of the Great Reset. Everyone involved in these efforts must understand that the corporations and governments behind the ESG movement and the Net-Zero 2050 Initiative are not simply going to roll over at the first sign of resistance. Trillions of dollars and years of work on forming these alliances have already been invested; the cronies will not give up without a fight.


Bette Grande ([email protected]) is a government relations manager at The Heartland Institute.


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