There are two types of ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing. In the popular model, investors (usually working with brokers) focus their public investment dollars on corporations that are acting in a world positive manner — or at least keeping their negative actions to a relative minimum. This is the avoidance ESG model where you try not to invest in companies whose values you deplore. The less common form of ESG investing is exemplified by a firm called Engine 1. They flip the model on its head and argue that simply choosing to not invest in corporations with poor environmental records gives the investor no power and has little effect on the companies. Instead, they invest in big climate offenders and then use their investment and activism to push for change. Sometimes this model can work. Signs of change at ExxonMobil a year after hedge fund proxy fight.

When it comes to the increasingly popular avoidance ESG investment model, the average investor doesn’t have a lot of say in which companies get added to a portfolio, and the investment giants are a lot better at promoting their conscious capitalism than they are at keeping investors informed about where their dollars are actually being deployed. These investment houses can be a little lean on the green or invest in things you might not like. “The largest shareholder in America’s largest gunmakers isn’t a reclusive billionaire or a 2A rabble-rouser with a heavy Reddit presence. It’s BlackRock, the investment giant that talks Wall Street’s loudest game on social duty.” Want to pick stocks yourself? It might take a lot of research. I had no idea that the NRA was a Salesforce customer until employees protested this week.

It’s also worth noting that not all investors are using their investment dollars to support the environment (or workers, or good governance) because, to them, believing in climate change and doing something about it is just another example corporate wokeness. And sometimes, the same investment firms are getting it from both sides. “In West Virginia, the state treasurer has pulled money from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, because the Wall Street firm has flagged climate change as an economic risk. In Texas, a new law bars the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that the state comptroller says are boycotting fossil fuels. Conservative lawmakers in 15 other states are promoting similar legislation. And officials in Utah and Idaho have assailed a major ratings agency for considering environmental risks and other factors, in addition to the balance sheet, when assessing states’ creditworthiness.” NYT (Gift Article): How an Organized Republican Effort Punishes Companies for Climate Action. So you can invest or not invest to move corporations in one direction or another. But be forewarned: The investment wars are just like the other battles in America’s great divide. Money no longer talks. It yells.

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