ESG stands for “Environmental, Social, Corporate Governance” and has been likened to a globalized Social Credit Scoring system for business. If you have a high ESG score, it will be easy to qualify for credit, to get the best deals with vendors and to participate in the global supply chain.
Alas, if you don’t have a high ESG score, you won’t be in business long unless you change your behavior and knuckle under to its demands.
So, how is ESG determined and who sets the rules and guidelines?
First, ESG has nothing to do with the physical aspects of a company, like capital, cash flow or profit. Rather, it concerns intangible factors such as how closely you, your vendors and customers adhere to Sustainable Development and climate change policies.
According to Forbes,
“The story of ESG investing began in January 2004 when former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote to over 50 CEOs of major financial institutions, inviting them to participate in a joint initiative under the auspices of the UN Global Compact and with the support of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Swiss Government. The goal of the initiative was to find ways to integrate ESG into capital markets.”
One year later (2005), an environmental policy wonk, Ivo Knoepfel, wrote a a major paper, Who Cares Wins: Connecting Financial Markets to a Changing World. This 58 page report contained “recommendations by the financial industry to better integrate environmental, social and governance issues in analysis, asset management and securities brokerage.”
The corporate collaborators, far from real people like ordinary citizens, included all the big names one might suspect: World Bank Group, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, Citigroup and others.
And just like that, ESG was born.