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Op-Ed: Is ESG Profitable? The Numbers Don’t Lie

This article was authored by Mike Edleson and Andy Puzder for the Wall Street Journal on March 10, 2023

Corporations that remain neutral on social and political issues outperform companies that lean left.

Capitalists invest money, and manage companies, to do well financially. Proponents of so-called woke capitalism claim that companies can do “well” financially by doing “good” politically. The idea is that advancing a political agenda will also enhance profits and shareholder returns. Whether this does good is a matter of opinion, but whether it does well can be measured.

Woke capitalism makes its way into financial markets through an ill-defined concept known as environmental, social and governance investing. Huge investment managers use their ownership of shares to pressure companies to jump on the ESG train. But while individual investors are free to support whatever causes they wish with their dollars, those who invest other peoples’ money have a fiduciary duty to focus solely on clients’ financial interests. Thus it’s important to know whether politically focused companies actually do produce superior financial results.

To answer this question, we used research from 2ndVote Analytics Inc., a company that scores U.S. large-cap and midcap companies on their social and political engagement on five-point scale. Analytics evaluates company data on six social/political issues—the environment, education, abortion, Second Amendment rights, other basic constitutional freedoms and support for a safe civil society—and also generates a composite score. Company scores, updated quarterly, range from 1 (most liberal) to 5 (most conservative), with 3 meaning neutral or unengaged.

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