Tisha’s Insights

Riding the Anti-ESG Rollercoaster

What you’ll learn below:

  • How the anti-ESG movement is rapidly evolving.
  • How demands on your ESG strategy have changed in the past six months.
  • Why and how anti-ESG pressures and skepticism can make your ESG strategy even better.


In October, we discussed how to navigate your way through the ever-complex anti-ESG minefield. At the time, oil and gas executives were faced with the complicated task of juggling the competing demands of those stakeholders expecting their companies to adopt an ESG strategy and those skewering ESG as a contentious partisan and cultural issue. What’s an oil and gas executive accused of “woke capitalism” to do? Do anti-ESG political pressures require a fundamentally new calculus for company leaders?

Both of these things are true:

  • ESG continues to serve as a political lightning rod, with opposition largely concentrated among the conservative elite: political figures, elected officials, talking heads, and activist shareholders.
  • Meanwhile, directional pressures continue to drive the expectation that companies mitigate their social, political, and climate risks with smart, authentic, and robust ESG strategies.

The situation

Since the fall, Adamantine has monitored these key developments in anti-ESG efforts:

  • Anti-ESG meets Oval Office veto. The anti-ESG debate has officially made its way to President Joe Biden’s desk. In March, Biden vetoed a congressional bill to overturn a Department of Labor rule that allowed pension fund managers to consider ESG factors alongside financial factors in their investment decisions. It was the first veto of his presidency. The measure, while Republican-led, also had bipartisan support; Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT), who are both up for 2024 reelection in conservative states, voted in favor.
  • States kicking ESG to the curb. To date, more than 30 states have engaged in actions that would restrict the use of ESG factors or target entities, such as banks and asset managers, that are deemed to be engaging in a “boycott” of certain industries, particularly the fossil fuel industry. Kansas and South Carolina most recently took steps to move anti-ESG bills through their state legislatures. In March, 19 Republican governors announced “an alliance to push back” against Biden’s ESG “agenda.” On the other hand, nine states have engaged in actions that seek to promote the use of ESG factors.
  • ESG the sad scapegoat. Following the failure of Silicon Valley Bank, Republican officials blamed—questionably—the downfall on ESG. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis accused leaders of the bank of being too focused on “woke” initiatives. And West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore said the failure is “a great example, unfortunately, of what ESG ultimately … will do to the free market capitalist system here in this country. It will destroy it.” (Here at Adamantine we have a little more faith in free market capitalism.)
  • 2024 elections approaching fast. Given its warm reception as a political lightening rod, we anticipate ESG will remain a political hot topic, even more than in previous years. Vivek Ramaswamy, a leading anti-ESG activist investor, has entered the Republican presidential primary. Governor DeSantis, another outspoken anti-ESG campaigner, is expected to be a prominent Republican challenger.
  • Anti-ESG ≠ anti-environment. Just because someone is anti-ESG doesn’t mean they don’t support reasonable and proactive measures to mitigate a company’s environmental impact, ensure the health and safety of employees, engage in ethical governance practices, and so on. Despite ESG’s becoming a conservative political issue, recent polls show that a majority of GOP voters are fine with companies pursuing their environmental goals and reducing emissions.

It may feel as if anti-ESG pressure is growing, will eventually reach a tipping point, and fundamentally reshape expectations of your company. After all, this last quarter, companies sold about 50 percent fewer bonds to pay for projects that help them achieve their ESG goals compared with last year. Yet the directional drivers that having an ESG strategy answers haven’t gone anywhere. Key stakeholders—including major financial institutions and investors, the millennial and Gen Z public, many local communities, and much of our workforce—now expect your company to have an implementable ESG strategy.

Seize the day

What has changed in the last six months is that your company needs to be articulate, clear-eyed, and discerning about how you are assessing the directional pressures that inform your ESG strategy and relevant anti-ESG political pressures. Consider these factors to chart and then navigate your course through the anti-ESG minefield:

  • Use the drama to stress-test your ESG ideas. Don’t let a good anti-ESG crisis go to waste. Scrutinize your ESG strategy to ensure that it passes the stress test. Revisit your risk drivers and opportunities: Is your ESG strategy responsive to the company’s directional drivers and long-term goals? Revisit conversations with key stakeholders to stay rooted in their expectations and priorities. By evaluating and updating your ESG strategy in the context of your risk drivers and opportunities, you can avoid the political whipsaw while using it to make your strategy stronger.
  • Explain what ESG is. Despite more conversations about ESG in the news every day, most people don’t even know what it is, contributing to a slew of misconceptions. It can be helpful to explain to internal audiences and external stakeholders that ESG isn’t about a single thing and includes many areas your company already addresses and cares about, such as employee health and safety, chemical and hazardous material management, employee professional development, environmental restoration, and so much more.
  • Articulate the importance of ESG. Your workforce will be exposed to anti-ESG rhetoric. It is essential that you clearly articulate why ESG is rooted in company fundamentals and how your strategy matters to the success of the workforce and financial sustainability of the company.
  • Understand and acknowledge hesitation. To implement your ESG strategy, you need ongoing buy-in from employees. It’s likely that some of your employees will be skeptical of ESG after all the anti-ESG noise. Openly acknowledge these concerns while articulating the reasons your company continues to value ESG measures as strategic components of the company’s longevity and success.
  • Don’t get swept away by politics. The 2024 election season is already underway, and we can expect more anti-ESG drama. The political lure will be strong, but as a discerning leader, you can stay grounded in your company’s value and long-term aspirations.

Thank you to Kelsey Grant for co-authoring this piece. At Adamantine, we work with our client partners to develop, articulate, and execute enduring ESG strategies. Whether you’re starting out on your ESG journey or want to take your company’s ESG strategy to the next level, reach out.

To making the most of the ride,



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Both of These Things Are True

By Tisha Schuller