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171: ESG: Facts Are Not Political

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About this episode

Welcome to another episode of Outrage + Optimism! 

As always, we examine issues at the forefront of the climate crisis, interview change-makers, and transform our anger into productive dialogue on building a sustainable future. 

In this episode, co-hosts Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac, and Paul Dickinson discuss increased attacks on the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) movement, including regressive political and financial policy agendas, polarizing narratives, and how dark money is fueling such efforts. 

You’ll hear from Jesse Coleman, senior researcher with investigative watchdog and journalism project Documented. Coleman and his team have uncovered astounding research on the sobering reality behind the ESG pushback.

We also have music from trip hop, progressive rock band Archive.

Our hosts open with a preliminary discussion about the ESG movement. The concept was born from a long-held idea of investing responsibly, first called “ethical” or “socially responsible” investment. This was initially defined by ‘exclusion.’ For example, ethical investing could mean excluding weapons companies from the portfolio.

The term “ESG” was first coined in 2005 by Paul Clements-Hunt as part of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative in its October 2005 Report, which included corporate governance, environmental, and social reporting concepts.

By then, companies had gained significant power and assets, prompting the need for a more careful analysis of their activities over time. Paul [Dickinson] explains, “Corporations are [now] gigantic…and…they've [had] an increasing impact on our politics for five decades [to] the point where companies and investors are incredibly important political actors. And so [the] environmental, social, and governance [framework] is saying, well, we need to evaluate that.”

Christiana references the massive expansion of the sustainable investment movement and how it reflects the growing recognition of climate change risk. Today, ESG assets are one of the fastest growing sectors of investment一not only will they play meaningful roles in the future, many also perform better financially today due to strong leadership, sound risk management, and other attributes. 

Attacks on ESG can come from the left with accusations of greenwashing一discussed a few weeks ago with guest Catherine McKenna一but also from the right with allegations of so-called “woke capitalism,” and criticism that ESG is irresponsible and puts the financial assets of a company at greater risk. Christiana sums it up nicely: “From 2005 to now, 17 years, ESG has become so central to the financial industry that it is actually attracting not just the attention, but the criticism from both sides.”

 

INTERVIEW WITH JESSE COLEMAN, SENIOR RESEARCHER, DOCUMENTED

Next up, we hear Tom’s earlier interview with Jesse Coleman about the coordinated efforts by a group of organizations to derail ESG in the United States. 

In covering the oil and gas industry, Coleman and his team from Documented noticed the sector was actually accepting of ESG一that the fossil fuel industry was starting to prepare seriously for ESG’s “inevitability.” However, they also noticed that, in response, a backlash was forming. 

Enter the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), and other conservative policy organizations centered on climate denial. The SFOF is a group of Republican state treasurers focused on opposing climate policy一not their usual purview. As told by Coleman, Riley Morris, West Virginia State Treasurer, said, “[Treasurers]...can speak with the taxpayer dollar.”

In short, Coleman contends: “This is part of a larger right-wing strategy to politicize these down-ballot positions (state treasurers) [and] there's a large, coordinated strategic campaign that's aimed at stopping climate policies.”

And indeed, the TPPF, SFOF, and others have been effective with their policy goals. The anti-ESG movement has advanced legislation in West Virginia, Texas, Kentucky, and other states that exclude industry-leading asset managers that (in their words) “are now boycotting the fossil fuels industry.” 

“The strategy here for these groups is to get enough red states, Republican states, to kind of band together to form a large block of pension funds that [has the comparable purchasing power to the much larger] pension funds of California,” Coleman explains. Together the red state pension funds can threaten to boycott investment companies that support ESG.

At the heart of the campaign is the politicization of corporate fiduciary duty, broadly defined as the obligation to act for the benefit of shareholders. The anti-ESG argument suggests that disclosing climate risk and the like is antithetical to fulfilling corporate fiduciary duty一an extreme and arguably dangerous position in the face of the planet’s growing climate emergency.

Coleman explains, “The only way [that argument is] true is if you deny that climate change is happening.” 

The irony is not lost here, either. Coleman continues, “If you look at the investments of BlackRock and the other large asset managers being targeted by these groups, they have billions of dollars in the oil and gas and other polluting industries.”

Tom follows up with a key question: “And what impact do you think this will have on the assets that BlackRock manages?”

Coleman responds that when BlackRock says it needs to take climate risk into account, “it’s because 10 or 15 years down the line, it's going to impact [the company’s] bottom line.” 

Clearly, there’s a lot at stake.

Then there’s the money. Are financial incentives part of the story? According to Coleman, large corporate sponsors, such as Fidelity, MasterCard, and others, are playing both sides. They’re out front with detailed public ESG policies but are also funding efforts that are antithetical to their public statements.

In addition, the SFOF is at least partially financed with dark money. 

“We don't really know who's funding this campaign,” Coleman says, adding that, “​​There's a direct profit motive for this kind of anti-climate, right-wing culture war campaign that's being waged…We haven't even come close to seeing the end of this kind of campaign yet.”

 

THE CO-HOSTS SUM UP

In resuming his discussion with his co-hosts, Tom reflects, “This [ESG] pushback has been created because they know that it splits the movement…which has made it much more pernicious and difficult to repel.”

Paul muses on the broader implications for the role of corporate institutions in an increasingly climate-sensitive world.

"I believe that we're about to cross through this baptism of fire into a world where people accept that significant issues of ecological security and social system security are entirely relevant,” he says “Investment matters.”

Finally, Christiana injects a little optimism into the room by recounting her recent conversation with Emmanuel Faber, the CEO of the International Sustainability Standards Board, formed to establish global sustainability standards.

“[Emmanuel] said the truth is that facts are not political,” she says.“Climate has transitional risks, policy risks, physical risks to a corporation, no matter what your ideology is. And so responsible corporations need to first figure out what those risks are and then make it their business to mitigate those risks as quickly as they can…facts are not political.” 

“I think this is healthy scrutiny [of ESG], and if we want to interpret this positively, I think it's very healthy scrutiny and will lead us to what some people are already calling ESG 2.0, which is much more factual, much more science-based, much more data-driven, rather than just ideology and slapping labels on investment decisions and corporations,” Christiana continues. 

And with that, Tom turns to introduce the episode’s musical guest, London-based progressive rock sensation, Archive. Be sure and enjoy their outro track, entitled “Frying Paint.” Details, including a link to the brilliant video, are in the show notes below.

See you next time!

CORRECTION: Our host Paul Dickinson mentions in the show that Paul Watchman produced a fiduciary duty report for Linklaters.  The fiduciary duties report Paul Watchman was responsible for was from Freshfields....not Linklaters.

 

NOTES AND RESOURCES 

Jesse Coleman 

Twitter | Documented

 

Learn more about Jesse’s research on Documented 

LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Read a joint report on ExxonMobil by Jesse (Documented) and Emily Atkin (HEATED)

 

Huge, huge shout out to Jason Schwartz and Kathleen Brophy at The Sunrise Project for their incredible work bringing this anti-ESG movement to our attention, and for all their help and generosity.

 

The Sunrise Project

State Financial Officers Foundation

Texas Public Policy Foundation

 

Archive 

Twitter | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Music

 

Tom + Clay recommend Archive’s video for “Frying Paint”

Clay’s Pick of The Week - Archive’s “Shouting Within”

Be sure to check out “The Way Out Is In” – our sister podcast with Plum Village!


To learn more about our planet’s climate emergency and how you can transform outrage into optimistic action subscribe to the podcast here.

Full Transcript

Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.


Christiana: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres.


Paul: [00:00:16] And I'm Paul Dickinson.


Tom: [00:00:18] This week in Outrage + Optimism, the dark money trails, regressive political and financial policy agendas, the polarizing narratives that have created another culture war around the backlash to ESG. And we have music from Archive. Thanks for being here.


Paul: [00:00:46] What's ESG Tom?


Tom: [00:00:46] So Paul, I was going to actually start off by inviting you to answer that question. No, No one has it worked. No one, as you were telling us just a moment ago, has more.


Paul: [00:00:57] Experience in this.


Tom: [00:00:58] Area than you.


Paul: [00:00:59] Do. Yes. No, that's correct.


Tom: [00:01:00] It is appropriate that we explain the backlash to ESG. We set out what it is. So listeners, strap in. Paul, you're unleashed.


Paul: [00:01:09] Okay. So you might you might want to go and make an omelette or, you know, maybe sit down and strap in. Exactly. Look, once upon a time, long time ago, probably. Actually, maybe even hundreds, you can argue thousands of years, people have thought about investing responsibly. There have been wealthy people and kings and churches and religious groups that have had money. And they've they've often thought that.


Tom: [00:01:34] Definitely going back further than I anticipated.


Paul: [00:01:36] So we're going to need some music or something.


Tom: [00:01:39] But can you give me some example of a feudal king investing responsibly?


Paul: [00:01:44] No, I don't want it because you said a minute ago that you didn't want that. So I'm not going to give you what you don't want. What I am going to give you is what it was kind of called latterly. So I think probably since World War Two people have talked in terms of ethical investment, and that was thought of very much in terms of something that later became called socially responsible investment and ethical investment was often defined in its very early days by exclusion. Religious groups like the Quakers, for example, didn't want to invest in weapons and and things like that. The evolution carried on.


Christiana: [00:02:18] And health health conscious people in tobacco, for example.


Paul: [00:02:22] Were quite so.


Tom: [00:02:24] So is it am I picking up sort of between the lines where you're saying that this is about investors deciding to change the world by where they put their money?


Paul: [00:02:31] Yes, but I mean, I've got a pile of notes here.


Jesse Coleman: [00:02:34] And what was first about?


Christiana: [00:02:37] It was first about where do they not put their money?


Tom: [00:02:39] Why do they not pick us up?


Paul: [00:02:42] So to say that was called negative screening and responsible investment, Ethical investment became called socially responsible investment. But actually around about the time of a key report on fiduciary duty that was written for the United Nations Environment Programme by Paul Watchman at Linklaters. Often called the Watchman report. I believe it was actually a UN executive. Paul Clement Hunt coined the phrase ESG or environmental, social and governance. Now what's extremely interesting.


Christiana: [00:03:10] 2005.


Paul: [00:03:12] 2005. Thank you very much indeed.


Christiana: [00:03:14] Fast forward to 2005.


Paul: [00:03:16] Fast forward to 2005. Although I have a whole section on feudal kings that we're going to come to later in the broadcast. But so in 2005, the genius of this, first of all, I mean the foundation on a report about fiduciary duty, it was extremely interesting. But the framing of this whole thing in ESG, environmental, social and governance essentially looked at combining three things. One is the G for governance. Now, there's a long history of corporate governance in investing and things like the chief executive paying themselves too much. That's corporate governance. But there are lots of other issues about the different types of voting shares and people trying to stop takeovers and all kinds of stuff. So the g of governance is a long standing thing and companies have to report on their governance, but it's not a financial number. And then environmental and social reporting came along and.


Christiana: [00:04:04] Hold on, hold on. I think it's a very fundamental little fact, is that the first time they thought of this, they were going to put the G first. It was going to be called GES G E S, and they thought maybe that's not the acronym that we want, because the main concern at that time was governance. So they wanted the G first as the as the most important. And just because they didn't like the way the acronym sounded, they actually changed the order of the three letters, which is quite interesting because as Paul will now explain, the E has become so much more important.


Tom: [00:04:42] But I do think that was a good move because if you sort of, you know, it's all about measuring and trying to work out what companies are doing. So you say, well, let's figure out who's good on environmental, social and governance. Let's guess, you know, it doesn't sort of like work together, you know?


Christiana: [00:04:54] Okay. No, no, no. That was a good move. Carry on, Paul. We're interrupting your story. Apologies.


Paul: [00:05:00] I'm holding it together. You know, I've still got you know, I'm keeping my patience may not last forever. But so broadly speaking, I think that the point.


Christiana: [00:05:07] What page number of your notes are you on? Are you on page one?


Paul: [00:05:10] It's very hard for me to work! I'm an artist. I'm sorry. Little outburst. So look, here's the thing, right? People would say to you, companies are only just about how much money they make. How much money is this company worth? What are their assets? How much money is this company make? What are its profits? That's all I want to know. But actually, it turns out you do want to know about the governance. You do want to know if it's share structure is rational, if the management are paying themselves too much. So the governance is important. So by linking environment and social to governance, you found that this we found a sort of good collective name for considering matters that could be argued as future financial or will be financial, but are not necessarily today considered as absolutely, you know, expressed just just in terms of numbers. And then, of course, you're quite correct, of course, Christiana, the E became super important because essentially if climate change and perhaps environmental reporting and there's lots more that we could say, but I think if you look at the big picture here, it's like, why? Why do we care about companies? Why is it important? And we have to reference the very famous essay written in 1970 by Milton Friedman, who said The social responsibility of business is to make a profit. Now, nearly anyone who has this conversation references that essay simply because it was a kind of it was a bit of punctuation in this debate.


Paul: [00:06:25] I think that the key point is that for me personally, personally, I think back in 1970, maybe maybe that maybe business didn't just have a social responsibility to make a profit because it was only 20 years since World War Two governments were really, really strong and they could control companies. We were in a kind of ideological struggle with the with the with the with the Iron Curtain and the communists. And we had a sort of better, more reasonable society where our corporations went around and our investors and sort of supported our societies. It kind of moved forward. But 50 years is a long time and the corporations are now absolutely gigantic and the investors are absolutely gigantic. And the truth is they've been having an increasing impact on our politics for five decades. The point where companies and investors are incredibly important political actors. And so environmental, social and governance is saying, well, we need to evaluate that. I can't just sit there and be a fund manager and see, you know, all this catastrophic climate change on the news. I've got to do something. And then as that movement has grown now to kind of fever pitch and we can talk about that, we've also seen a backlash. So that's my basics about what is ESG.


Christiana: [00:07:31] Yeah. So before we get to the backlash, I think it's interesting to to note that although those three simple letters were put together in 2005 in the right order, they actually formed the beginning of what is today recognized as sustainable investment movement that has gone to scale. And it took a while, admittedly, but sort of in the in the middle of 2013 to the end of that decade, let's say last decade, the ESG assets really compounded quite quickly over the years, especially because of the then finally recognized risks of climate change that were destroying the value of assets, like physically destroying the value of assets. And and of course, by the time we got to the early twenties, where we still are, there was a very clear projection that ESG was on exponential rise. When I mean ESG, I mean ESG incorporated assets, i.e. how many financial institutions were already beginning to differentiate.


Tom: [00:08:52] Fastest growing sector by a huge margin.


Christiana: [00:08:55] By a huge margin and and and outperforming the competitors. Right. Outperforming the non high rating ESG assets.


Paul: [00:09:07] So just just but just before that, just before that clarifying question for you two I mean, you said it's been growing, the ESG has been growing. It's the fastest growing bit of finance. But what does that what does that mean? Does that mean funds that have gone like do they say like, you know, I'm at so-and-so, I'm at Paul Dickinson fund management, and we look at environmental, social and governance issues in in our ESG fund. You should put the money in. Is that the idea?


Tom: [00:09:33] Yes. So my understanding is that what has been growing exponentially is funds that market ESG is one of the assets of their fund. So if you say, I'm going to raise a fund and it's got ESG attributes, we will not only look at financial performance, we'll use all of these other indicators, which, as Christiana said, in turn actually ends up leading to better financial performance. These companies are well run, they're managing risk. That's the sector that has been growing.


Christiana: [00:09:58] Especially during the pandemic. Interestingly enough, everything, all assets were put to the test under the pandemic. But it's very interesting that especially those that were, let's say, more resilient to impact because of their ESG-ness, which is now a new and new noun that we have just coined right here. You heard it here first. Because of their ESG-ness, those assets actually performed better when compared to the others that that did not incorporate ESG.


Tom: [00:10:29] Yeah.


Paul: [00:10:30] Ask you both an ESG question and.


Tom: [00:10:32] Then we're going to be on to it.


Paul: [00:10:32] Okay. All right. But let's just say I was running an ESG fund, then I might buy shares in a company that makes wind energy, for example, and I might sell shares in a company that digs up coal. But what do I do with a supermarket?


Tom: [00:10:46] Well, what you've got there is a very good question, Paul, which is how do you determine what does actually provide the return on ESG? How do you measure those things? I remember years ago, I was on the advisory board of the Global Impact Investment Network, and we were looking at spreadsheets with 10,000 different lines on them of like, do they manage their water in this particular way? And what happens in this, loads of detail that you try to track and measure. And of course, there has to be good disclosure from companies as well as good publicly available information to try to track and measure those companies, to try and work out their performance across these different indicators.


Paul: [00:11:22] And so that's a key, an important point there that I was kind of flush out because, you know, I've spent 22 years working on corporate disclosure on climate change. And I think what's quite important is that you have information about how a corporation is performing in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, for example, and strategy and a whole bunch of other stuff. And you can say quite a lot about how that company is performing on climate change, but you probably can't use that information to tell you anything about how a company is performing on child labor or modern slavery, or indeed how they're performing in terms of biodiversity. No, no, no. So we've got a lot of complexity here.


Tom: [00:11:54] Totally. Take that. However, I think for the purposes of listeners on this podcast, the key issue here is that ESG as an asset class has been rising exponentially. There's issues around how you measure it, and that is making those who do not approve of measuring these things along with financial return, very afraid of what's happening, and that has led to an organized backlash.


Christiana: [00:12:18] So, yeah, just before we dive into the ESG backlash, I think it might be helpful to understand that the irony here is that ESG. As a let's say, a category or an aspiration of financial flows has already been so successful that it is getting criticisms from two sides and to put it simplistically and irresponsibly. A lot of criticism that ESG is being used to greenwash, some corporations or some investments that are not really being very responsible, but just by slapping ESG label on it, they're actually hiding their irresponsibility, but they're not really doing the work that needs to be done to get, from a climate perspective, down to net zero emissions. That's the conversation, if listeners will remember that we had with Catherine McKenna two weeks ago, and for which the Secretary General of the United Nations has set up this high level expert group, the name of which is completely unintelligible and unpronounceable. But it has it it is sort of the greenwashing police of the UN. Now, that is not the conversation that we would like to have this week. This week we want to have the other side of the conversation, which again, simplistically and irresponsibly is the criticism that is being lobbied at ESG.


Christiana: [00:13:52] Let's say from the right political extreme, which is saying actually ESG is total hog. It's not greenwash, it's hogwash. It is being linked to what is being called woke capitalism and is actually not not from a financial perspective and certainly from a fiduciary perspective. It is not responsible. It actually is putting those financial flows and those investments at even higher risk. That is the accusation that is coming from the right. But I think it's interesting that, you know, in just 15 years, if you will, just from 2005 to now 17 years, that ESG has actually become so central to the financial industry that it is actually attracting not just the attention, but the criticism from both sides. But let's get into the conversation of today, which is the accusations of against ESG that are coming from those those people that that Tom has just mentioned, which irresponsibly, admittedly, but they're sort of right leaning if there still is a left and right in politics.


Tom: [00:15:16] Right. Okay. So let's move on. So this week I spoke to Jesse Coleman from Documented, now Documented have been doing amazing work, uncovering the reality behind this ESG situation. And I asked him a few different questions to help us delve deeper into what was really happening behind the scenes with this group of coordinated organizations that are trying to tear down ESG for nefarious purposes. So let's hear from Jesse. Thanks for joining us at Outrage + Optimism. Jesse, we've been seeing the pushback to ESG grows since the start of the year, but were unaware of the roots of it until your research. I'm curious what prompted the team at DOCUMENTED to start digging into this issue of anti-ESG? When did you begin to realize that this was part of a strategic and coordinated movement to derail ESG efforts?


Jesse Coleman: [00:16:11] Yeah, thanks. It's great to be here. Well, we at Documented have been following the oil and gas industry for a very long time. And, you know, we saw these ESG talk about ESG really taking off on a corporate level. And we thought, well, that's interesting. And, you know, what is this thing? You know, how is it going to impact the oil industry? And we thought at first, well, you know, the oil industry is saying that this is really a way for the oil industry to access lower cost capital, because as long as they disclose, you know, certain things, they should be eligible for these large ESG funds. And we said, well, that's interesting. That's probably the story here. But as we kind of dug a little bit deeper, we realized that, in fact, there was this whole pushback to ESG coming, specifically, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonprofit out of Texas, was pushing this bill to make it to boycott large asset managers that were, quote unquote, boycotting the fossil fuel industry. So he said, wow. So there's this there's this huge pushback to this relatively moderate climate related policy in the oil and gas industry.


Jesse Coleman: [00:17:22] You know who else is behind this? So we started lobbying and records requesting to a lot of different states that seemed like they might also be passing some sort of boycott bill like Texas did. And what we did that we got back, you know, a lot of a lot of information, a lot of emails, a lot of documents, a lot of them related to sort of the the central characters that you would expect. Maybe, you know, the American Petroleum Institute, this this group, the Texas Public Policy Foundation. But more central to the Nexus was actually this group we had never heard about before, which was called the State Financial Officers Foundation. And so digging into the state financial Officer's Foundation, you know, we found that they were a group of Republican treasurers that had become highly focused on opposing climate policy, specifically, which was not the usual work of treasures. And so that's kind of how this whole web was unveiled to us, was was really tracking the the the fossil fuel boycott bill in Texas and who was pushing that.


Tom: [00:18:22] Now, why exactly are the State Financial Officers Foundation targeting state treasurers specifically?


Jesse Coleman: [00:18:30] Well, you know, the state Financial Officer's Foundation really says it out loud when when they say we've we've activated these treasures which are really down ballot candidates, Usually it's more of of a bipartisan position in the states. It hasn't really been at the center of the culture war treasurers. But they say, you know, the treasures can speak with the taxpayer dollar. That's what the treasurer of West Virginia, Riley Morris, said, who's a major, major part of all of this. And so I think that realizing that, you know, I mean, this is part of a larger right wing strategy to kind of politicize these down ballot positions, but realizing that that's what's going on and that the state treasurers that do believe in climate change and do want to address it, need to understand that there's a large, coordinated strategic campaign that's aimed at at stopping these kinds of climate policies. And it's not you know, it's not one off state, you know, one crazy person in the state, one, you know, kind of wild hair in another state. It's a really centrally coordinated effort by large national political groups. You know, two years ago, all of the major oil and gas corporations like everybody that, you know, any time you'd go to an energy conference or something like that, taking ESG factors into account, taking climate risk into account seemed inevitable. Everybody was preparing for it. Everybody was ready for it. It was really the biggest climate thing that was happening at the time. You had rules coming from the SEC, you had rules coming from some of the other major agencies. It was the thing that was happening on climate change and it was being accepted by seemingly the vast majority of the fossil fuel industry.


Jesse Coleman: [00:20:17] Well, this is the pushback to that. This is this is always the pushback to climate policy. This follows a pattern of every time there's a major effort to address climate risks, there is a major effort from climate science deniers to try to keep that from happening. And that's you know, this is a coordinated effort to do exactly that. And, you know, I think that in a large part it is a plank of the Republican Party to deny climate science. So in that sense, yes, it's it's you know, I think that this is a part you know, this is what it means to to be an elected official and be a Republican is to kind of take some of the stuff on. But, you know, I guess my central point is that any major climate policy is going to have a major pushback from these same groups that are driving the pushback to this climate policy, which is, you know, the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council and their allies. The strategy here for these these groups that are pushing this is to get enough red states, Republican states, to kind of band together to form a large block of pension funds that can challenge the pension funds of California, for example, which are which are much, much larger than really the rest of the country's pension funds put together. So, you know, the this is an it's an ongoing thing. And we haven't we haven't even come close to seeing the end of this kind of campaign yet. And so we don't really know exactly what the final impact is going to be at this point.


Tom: [00:21:54] What, in your opinion, is that the ideological center of this anti ESG movement, and on what grounds are these groups managing to pass legislation?


Jesse Coleman: [00:22:04] At the heart of all of this pushback to climate or climate change disclosure and to climate policies in the financial institutions is a really deeply ingrained denial of climate science. So the fiduciary duty, right, that's the fiduciary duty says that you have to act in the benefit of the person whose money you're holding. You can't act in your own specific benefit. And all of the attacks on these financial asset managers that are that are, you know, saying we need to disclose climate risks, They're saying disclosing climate risks is not acting in the best manner for the money that you're managing. But in fact, the only way that that's true is if you deny that climate change is happening because these financial asset managers, what they're doing is saying, you know, often the future we're going to be feeling climate impacts and we need to take that into account in the investments that we're having that we're doing right now. And the, you know, the pushback to this saying that's outside of the fiduciary duty, that denies the fact that, you know, the climate is warming up and that's going to have a lot of downstream impacts on different businesses, on people, and that's going to be a major factor in investments ten or 15 years down the line.


Jesse Coleman: [00:23:15] So, you know, what you see in a lot of states, you know, sort of the next push right now is to say ESG investing, climate change, disclosure is outside of the fiduciary duty of these large asset managers to disclose. And it's actually illegal in places like Kentucky. It is illegal for pension boards and other state managed financial institutions to take climate change into account. Well, that's kind of ridiculous if you believe in climate change, but it makes a lot of sense if you completely don't believe in climate change. And that's, you know, the central groups that are pushing all of these efforts, the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Financial Officers Foundation, all of these groups really, they say out loud that they don't believe in climate science at the end of the day. So I think that's kind of where this fiduciary duty issue really is right now.


Tom: [00:24:09] There's been a lot of attacks on BlackRock and Larry Fink regarding woke capitalism, ESG. Have they been targeted by the groups you have just mentioned? And if so, what's been the basis of those attacks and what has been the impact on BlackRock specifically?


Jesse Coleman: [00:24:24] Yes, well, you know, they're saying that large asset managers like BlackRock are, quote unquote, boycotting the fossil fuel industry, and that's having a lot of downstream impact like rising gas prices and stuff like that. That's not really true at all. In fact, if you look at the investments of BlackRock and the other large asset managers that are being targeted by these groups, they have billions of dollars in the oil and gas and other polluting industries. So it's really kind of a canard to say that it's about making gas cheaper or even about energy at all. You know, it's really about sort of taking an issue that affects people, i.e., you know, energy and and making that into a culture war issue that political groups can then kind of make a political profit off of. As far as like what it's doing to BlackRock, I think it is having some pretty stark impacts. I don't think that BlackRock is was really prepared for the amount of political pushback that they were going to get. I think that we can kind of see the impact in a couple of ways. They you know, after the Texas bill passed, they hired lobbyists for the first time in Texas. Who are those lobbyists? Longtime oil and gas lobbyists. They went to all of the major legislators and regulators in the state and said, no, we love oil and gas, and here's all of our billions of dollars of investments in oil and gas.


Jesse Coleman: [00:25:41] And we'll continue to invest in oil and gas. You know, we're not boycotting the oil and gas industry. And sure enough, you know, you see Larry Fink's tone really change on climate change. And, you know, this does have a pretty major impact, I think, in the short term as far as movement on getting the financial industry together and getting the financial industry to agree on standards for reporting climate risks and that kind of thing. It's a calculated strategy to open this wedge. Right? Alec does polling and they see that 73% of Democrats hate BlackRock. You know, 68% of Republicans now hate BlackRock. And so ALEC is like now we get to be the anti corporate power campaigner and that splits our opposition. Meanwhile, like people on the climate side are like, well, I guess we like ESG now, you know, but in reality, like you were saying, these ESG funds, like they were far from perfect, like far from even good, really, a lot of the time. And, you know, yeah, they grew huge with like the tech stocks that they had and now they're not growing as much anymore. So like, yeah, it's you know, it's it's kind of it's really interesting to watch because on the Republican side, too, you know, a lot of the Republican bankers and you know long you know, they really oppose legislation to curtail what investments they make and what investments they don't. That's like against the free market.


Tom: [00:27:03] And what impact do you think this will have on the assets that BlackRock manages? Load More

Jesse Coleman: [00:27:09] Yeah, well, I think that if you look at BlackRock and these large asset managers, they're, you know, they're not really trying to save the world. They're trying to do their job, which is to make a profit. So when they say we need to take climate risk into account because ten or 15 years down the line, it's going to be a really big deal. They mean that because it impacts their bottom line. So I think that states like Florida and Texas that are trying to keep asset managers from taking climate science into account, those accounts, if they're successful, those accounts are going to suffer because this is a reality that's happening and it's going to affect the market. The problem is, is that that effect is going to be longer than an election cycle. It's going to be longer than a year. It's going to be longer than four years. It's going to be, you know, 10 to 20 years. And so, you know, Ron DeSantis can score political points in the short term with that. But these large pension firms know that for them to be successful, they have to live in reality, you know?


Tom: [00:28:08] What about the role of corporate sponsors in this anti-ESG movement? I mean, they play a massive role in our society, and many of the large corporations have made net zero commitments. Where do they fit in?


Jesse Coleman: [00:28:20] Yes. Interestingly, a lot of the state financial officers, foundations, corporate sponsors have very detailed ESG climate risk statements. You know, these are major asset managers, Fidelity, MasterCard, Visa. And so, you know, they are out front and on the on their Web pages, you know, talking about climate science and talking about their ESG statements. And then in the shadows, they're funding this group that seems antithetical to their public statements. You know, and that's you know, that's really unfortunate. The other thing that you need to know about the state financial officer's Foundation is that it exists in this group of dark money groups. These are groups that we actually don't know who's funding all of it or how much money is really running through. And so, you know, we do know some of the corporate sponsors of the State Financial Officers Foundation, but we don't know many of the of the contributors. So we don't really know who's funding this campaign kind of behind the scenes. I think one important point is the involvement of the fossil fuel industry in all of this. You know, in the culture, this is like the first time that the culture war has really defended the fossil fuel industry in this way. And in that sense, it's a really it's really interesting. And, you know, I think you have the American Petroleum Institute involved in this directly. You know, they communicated with the state Financial Officer's Foundation and these treasurers about all of these ESG issues. And so it's really important to to kind of consider who, you know, who is benefiting on a corporate level from from from this campaign.


Tom: [00:30:04] Right. And I think Ramaswamy is well, let's just say an interesting figure. He seems to be a very vocal but rather fringe individual in this specific action taken by the SFOF at first glance. But how involved is he?


Jesse Coleman: [00:30:20] Yeah. So Vivek Ramaswamy and Strive Asset Management are a fascinating piece of this puzzle. Vivek Ramaswamy is a pharma-biotech company owner. He made, you know, at least $500 million off selling a large pharmaceutical company. He then transitioned into this kind of campaigner for anti woke capitalism. And he's he's a really fascinating character in all of this because he actually stands to benefit personally from this campaign to, you know, make states boycott asset managers that take climate science into account. And the way that he's doing that is he's set up a his own asset management company, STRIVE Asset Management and STRIVE Asset Management claims to be the un-woke asset manager. So you have Vivek Ramaswamy. He's a part of a lot of the dark money groups that are driving this campaign, right? He's part of the Philanthropy Roundtable, a group that provides funding to consumers research and the State Financial Officers Foundation. And a lot of these other groups that are, you know, political groups that are that are driving this forward. And at the same time. So he's shaking the tree with these nonprofit political groups by participating in this campaign. And he's standing underneath the tree with his for profit STRIVE asset management, trying to catch all of the money that gets shaken out of BlackRock and gets shaken out of these other asset managers that are being boycotted by West Virginia and Louisiana, these other states. So it's a really interesting situation where there's a direct profit motive for this kind of anti climate right wing culture war campaign is being waged, which you really you know, you don't you don't see someone standing to directly profit all the time.


Tom: [00:32:08] Wow. Fascinating. So we're closing in on our time here. So I want to just ask you, in light of how you at Documented have clearly spent an incredible amount of time and resource bringing to light the level of coordination and focus of this anti ESG movement in the US. Have you seen anything positive happen as a result of your research? Do you feel optimistic that action will be taken as a result?


Jesse Coleman: [00:32:33] Well, I think that this example of Federated Hermes is hugely optimistic. You know, here's an example of a hypocrisy being brought to light and a giant corporation having to initially federated Hermes says, no, we sponsor a lot of people. The State Financial Officers Foundation is just another group on the big political spectrum that we're we have a relationship with and it's not that big a deal. And enough people said no. The State Financial Officers Foundation is denying climate science. They are you know, they are way out over their skis, so to speak, on on on climate and what we care about. And Federated Hermes, you have to, you know, put your money where your mouth is. And if you say. That you're going to do something about climate change. You can't literally be funding the groups that are stopping you from doing it. And you know, that ended up happening. So, you know, a little bit of progress was made there with, you know, by people kind of banding together and understanding how this whole system works. So I think that was really hugely positive.


Tom: [00:33:39] And how about what leaves you feeling outraged?


Jesse Coleman: [00:33:42] I mean, as far as outrage, I think I just have to go back to, you know, the people that are kind of behind this. I don't understand how they can read the newspaper and take even a moment to understand what's happening with our climate and the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate change and not and not fear for their future and the future of their children and their family and still stand up and and still, you know, strategize and, you know, go into elected officials and lobby for things that are just going to make us all poorer and worse off in the future. I just don't I just don't see why people would want to do that. And so that's that always outrages me, I think.


Tom: [00:34:31] Great. Thank you so much for your time, Jesse. So what a great interview that was with Jesse. I think listening to that conversation and thinking about the points you both raised before we cut to the interview, what we're talking about here, the conspiracies, the money, the deliberate attempt to undermine ESG on the right of politics by organizations that have been really carefully uncovered by work from the Sunrise Project and Documented has in part been specifically and deliberately created. This is this pushback has been created because they know that it splits the movement, that there are people in the climate movement who are already critical of ESG, which is why this pushback has meant that the climate movement has been unsure how to respond to this attack, which has made it that much more pernicious and that much more difficult to repel.


Christiana: [00:35:25] And and the other effect. Absolutely. And also what they're trying to do here is to intimidate players that are just beginning to get into this challenge and have don't have firm footing on it yet. And they're intimidating them from moving forward. I actually think that those that are firmly on onto this path are not going to be intimidated at all. But those that are just beginning, which is exactly what we need to get more players in the financial and corporate world to to walk this path. They're being intimidated. But why is that so?


Tom: [00:36:04] But not only intimidated, but legally barred from taking action. Sorry, Paul, You want to come in?


Paul: [00:36:08] Yeah. No, I was just going to say, you know, like you say, some bits of the climate movement now had to respond. Well, not me. I know exactly how to respond. I mean, look, here's the thing. ESG is extremely complicated, right? And it's not going to be solved any more than politics is going to be solved or kind of human administration is going to be solved. I mean, people think that they've solved everything with the stock market. You know, the company that makes the most money or is worth the most is the best company. Well, maybe. Right. The truth is that this anti-ESG campaign is is basically saying you're not allowed to think things. It's like burning books. It is. It is it is actually against the human brain. It is saying that you should be afraid of your own brain. You shouldn't use your brain. And if you use your brain, you're going to be in trouble with the you know, you're going to be against the regulations in Florida or Texas or Louisiana. And I'm sorry that legislation can't stand because without brains, we're nothing.


Tom: [00:37:06] So we can say, Paul, that actually this is anti brain and it doesn't work. But this is real. This is landing on the books of state legislators. This has been a very effective campaign that has successfully changed the laws and is leading to financial institutions, changing their strategy and rolling back decades of work that we have all invested in trying to introduce concepts. The idea that investment is not just about screwing the earth and making as much money as you can. So this is a moment of real consequence. And the trouble is that the climate movement hasn't yet worked out, even if you have how to respond effectively to it.


Paul: [00:37:43] Well, lawyers, lawyers go after these state financial officers and try and get them to explain how they are acting in the fiduciary duty of the people. They represent, the citizens. These are normally apolitical roles, but they've been politicized by fossil fuel interests, quite frankly. And they are if they go and tell fund managers to stop thinking about things, they are in breach of their fiduciary duty because they're going to have lower financial returns. They're leaving money on the table. The rest of the market will benefit and the taxpayers in that in that country and the money and the citizens whose money they're looking after, they are going to they're going to go basically to whatever the fiduciary equivalent of jail is, for this crazy anti-intellectual stance. However, I hear you.


Tom: [00:38:23] I think it's more of a risk than that. I mean, you're presenting it like we just need to put the facts out there. This is building real momentum against these issues and we need to be honest about it.


Paul: [00:38:32] It's good to take it seriously, Don't get me wrong.


Tom: [00:38:34] Undermined a lot of this momentum. Yes, of course, it's crazy. But on the other hand, crazy things happen in this world, right?


Christiana: [00:38:40] Well. It is crazy. It is completely crazy. But I had a just to put some a few rays of light into this conversation. And it's interesting that when criticism grows to a certain level, apparently what we do as humans is we give it a an institutional answer. So when the green washing attacks came and they grew to a certain level, then the ESG created this expert's group on this side. What we're talking about today, the criticisms from the right of of ESG have grown to the point where there is now an institutional answer. And so yesterday I had the pleasure of talking to Emmanuel Faber, who used to be the CEO of Danone, the yogurt company, and and had a very difficult exit from Danone precisely because of ESG issues that he was trying to push in the company. But now he is the CEO of a new standards board called the International Sustainability Standards Board that was created just last year in November at COP26. And the purpose of that board is to set up a global baseline of sustainability standards that are aimed at dealing with the alphabet soup, if you will, of ESG standards, so that we can actually have transparency about those standards and begin to differentiate between who is really doing the job and who is not and who is really doing the job in his definition is who is doing the job of mitigating the very real risks of climate change, as Emmanuel said yesterday. And I think he was very, very clear. He said the truth is that facts are not political. Climate has transitional risks, has policy risks, has physical risks to a corporation no matter what your ideology is. And so responsible corporations need to first figure out what those risks are and then make it their business to mitigate those risks as quickly as they can. He said quite famously yesterday in the conversation, Facts are not political.


Christiana: [00:41:19] They're facts.


Christiana: [00:41:21] So it doesn't matter.


Tom: [00:41:22] I remember saying, I wish that was still true.


Christiana: [00:41:24] No, no, no. But we have to we have to keep them.


Tom: [00:41:27] They have to hold to that.


Christiana: [00:41:28] Because because we have let that anchor go and we cannot let that anchor go. We have to differentiate between ideology, morality from data-based decisions. It's because what we're dealing with here are ideologies and where the criticisms from ideologies stem. Ideology is, in the best of all cases, a coherent set of opinions about life. But it's not a reality. And we tend to confuse ideology with reality. We tend to confuse facts with politics. And that is the difficulty, because in so many countries, and especially in Anglo-Saxon or English speaking countries. Climate change has been politicized to the point where ideology has taken over and it has really hidden the real risks, the real impacts, the real value destruction that climate change is having right now. That, to me is fundamentally the problem that we're facing.


Paul: [00:42:43] I'm sorry, Christiana. Let me add one more thing about Emmanuel Faber, which is extremely important. Yes, He's been combining some of these acronyms. We had one in my organization, the Climate Disclosure Standards Board, and we gave it to Emmanuel Faber. And you know why? It's because his International Sustainability Standards Board is nestled within the IFRS Foundation, which sounds a bit technical, but it is the global accounting standard for the pretty much the entire world, excluding the United States, which always does things a little bit differently. So the point being that we have the opportunity through that initiative to get formal accounting standards which are already specified by the Parliament. So you don't even need new laws. And they will, as you just said, Christiana, have the power of regulation and audit such that these are verified facts and that changes everything.


Tom: [00:43:38] Right.


Christiana: [00:43:38] So well-put. And he was very, sorry, Tom, but he was very transparent in that in that conversation and that interview about the fact that he is standing on all of that work, Paul, because when I asked him, But when are you going to have your results? Right? Because we need them right now. And he said, well, the good news is that because we're standing on all the previous work, because we're being enriched with all of that work, that we will be able to produce the first results by early next year, which is such good news. And it would not have been possible, Paul, really, without the work that and without the work that preceded this.


Paul: [00:44:23] You know, I'm pleased, frankly, that there's a big debate going on about the role of the corporation in society. I mean, we've had like too much almost kind of an excessive focus on ESG, probably without recognizing how important it is that governments actually set policy to respond to climate change alongside corporations and investors. Then we get these kind of strange interests opposing ESG and trying to tell fund managers they're not allowed to think about certain things, which is obviously kind of insane. But I feel good, actually, in a way in that Gandhian and I mentioned it many times, you know, first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then then you win. I believe that we're about to cross through this baptism of fire into a world where people accept that significant issues of ecological security and social system security are entirely relevant investment matters. How could they not be?


Christiana: [00:45:18] Yeah, I'm equally optimistic because I think this is healthy scrutiny and if we want to interpret this positively, I think it's very healthy scrutiny and will lead us to what some people are already calling ESG 2.0, which is much more factual, much more science based, much more data driven, rather than just ideology and slapping labels on on investment decisions and on corporations. And and that's exactly what we what we need. And I think it is going to help us to really hone in on the new role that corporations have to play, which is moving away from the fact that they used to only be concerned about profits, as we know. And now the role of corporations and of financial institutions is actually to figure out what are profitable, profitable solutions to social and environmental challenges. Yeah, that is a different role than just making a profit at the expense of social and environmental and environmental issues. So to be able to turn that around and understand there is nothing wrong with corporations making a profit as long as that profit is actually focused on social and environmental solutions. And that's a very different conception of what corporations are, but that's the conception that we need now to meet the various environmental and social challenges that are staring us in the face.


Tom: [00:47:07] No, that's absolutely right. And I think that sort of then feeds into something that Jesse said that maybe we should just have a quick chat about now, which is, you know, if you're if you're someone who is concerned about the future of the planet and. You've been aware of the limitations of ESG for some time and maybe even trying to work to get some of the rules changed to make sure that people are doing this seriously and properly. And now we witness this full frontal attack on ESG from another perspective. How should we I mean, from a from a sort of simplistic point of view, you're sort of caught in a difficult position of do you defend the thing you've been slightly campaigning against, trying to get changed, say, oh, no, no, no, it's not that bad. We still need to preserve it without tearing it down. Or do you encourage the attacks to say, yes, yes, this is all wrong. We shouldn't be doing it this way. How should I think people are a little bit caught between saying, do we defend it knowing that it's imperfect or do we try and join with these new forces that have appeared and try to also sort of tear down this concept and hope it's replaced with something better? I'd love to just hear your reflections on that.


Christiana: [00:48:12] But Tom, you're only giving us two completely unacceptable choices.


Tom: [00:48:17] Because I want to.


Paul: [00:48:17] Know. It says that it's like a newsreader. It's so annoying. It's like.


Paul: [00:48:21] No, is isn't this or is it like that? Well, go on. Which one? Which one?


Christiana: [00:48:25] Not fair. Not fair. Obviously, the choice here is the middle way.


Tom: [00:48:28] I'm trying to draw the distinctions in the middle. So I describe the middle one.


Christiana: [00:48:32] Okay.


Paul: [00:48:32] Yeah.


Christiana: [00:48:33] So the middle way is the improvement path, the constant improvement path. And to understand that nothing is perfect when an idea is born, because it is a new idea, it's a new effort. So of course it's not perfect, but we can't be we can't just sit back and accept it's imperfection. We have to be completely committed to constant, constant improvement. So that's where ESG 2.0 comes in, and maybe we then later on have to go to ESG 3.0. But but we also can't just throw the baby out with the bathwater because we know that this is necessary. So it shouldn't be that difficult to say. It is in principle an excellent way to look at our decisions and we have to improve that.


Tom: [00:49:28] Yeah. Paul, do you radically disagree with that?


Paul: [00:49:32] No, I don't disagree with Christiana because she's always right. But. Well, yeah, actually. But.


Christiana: [00:49:37] Yeah, right, right. Sure.


Paul: [00:49:40] Sometimes I disagree with Christina because I want to be wrong. But the key thing here for me, I think, is, is I was actually that weekend, somebody was asking me to to do some sort of strategy paper for an organization and directed me towards Michael Porter, who's often thought of as the kind of the parent of modern strategic thinking for corporations. But I couldn't find anything about Porter and strategy because his whole body of work since 2011 has been about what he calls creating shared value. That's all he wants to talk about. He points out that in the US the government is kind of two or 3 trillion and the NGOs are about 1 trillion and the private sector is 20 trillion, he says. You can't solve the world's problems with NGOs. You can't even solve them with government. You can only solve them with the global with the business system because it's it's like seven times the size of government and NGOs put together. And therefore, this is like the most important debate in the history of the world. This is exactly as Christiana said. How do you make profitable enterprises that generate wealth and growth and resources that address and solve problems in the world rather than making them worse, rather than being a little hiccup in the debate? It's the kind of the debate about the future of the 21st century. It's incredibly important, incredibly exciting, and I'm delighted it's happening. I'm just a bit sad that Tucker Carlson's name is is is associated with this because he's part of a bonkers conspiracy by the fossil fuel industry to destroy Earth.


Tom: [00:51:05] They have a conspiracy theory to try and destroy Earth?


Paul: [00:51:09] Well, I think I think certain people trying to defend essentially fossil fuel resources are telling us that, you know, the building isn't on fire when it is on fire. And that's obviously very dangerous for people in the building.


Tom: [00:51:20] Okay. But they're not trying to destroy the earth.


Paul: [00:51:22] No, you're.


Tom: [00:51:23] Just letting you set the record straight.


Paul: [00:51:24] They are trying to defend the value of their assets without due regard to the destruction of the earth. Thank you for correcting me. It's always good to have a fine monkish legal mind on the course.


Tom: [00:51:35] I try to help where I can. Right, anything else either of you'd like to add before we go to our music. Okay, so this week we have a great piece of music for you. And also do check out the music video, which is brilliant, which you can find online. The artist is Archive. The song is Frying Paint. Thanks for joining us this week. I feel sure this is a topic we're going to return to again and again. But hopefully, as you say, this is not the end of ESG 1.0. It is the birth of ESG 2.0, which is actually going to help us solve the issues that we all know we need to get on top of. Thanks for joining us this week. We'll see you next week.


Paul: [00:52:06] See you next week.


Christiana: [00:52:10] Bye.


Pollard Berrier: [00:52:15] Hi, this is Pollard from Archive and this is our new song Frying Paint. One thing that I'm outraged by when it comes to climate change is the fact that the corporations and companies who produce things like fossil fuel and petrol oil, they're the ones who have to change it and they're the ones who have to pump the money into making things more biodegradable. Making fuel burn cleaner. It's up to them because they should just stop selling plastic. Hands down. I know the technology is there to create things that these companies might not make so much money on but would actually be better for humanity. And one thing that I am optimistic about is just that I know that we as humanity are very clever and capable of turning things around. I do believe in a future that we can come together and create a world that doesn't leave so much destruction behind.


Clay: [00:56:31] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism. I'm Clay, producer of this podcast. Welcome to the wrap up of episode five, Season six. And you know what? Actually, let's just drop the big number. This is episode 171 171. Thank you so much for listening and supporting the show. Couldn't do it without you. Wouldn't want to do it without you. Thank you Archive for letting us spin your track on the show. The title is Frying Paint. I'm late to the party on Archive and if you are too, let's at least try to make this appear fashionable. I just love their sound. Archive has this sound that feels like they're like dancing on the gradient between digital and analog, and they just have like these textures and sounds in their music that makes my brain feel the, you know, like when you rub your thumb and your index finger together, you know, it's like gritty and smooth and humanity and robots and fire and electricity and dark money and compost and, you know, it's all layered together in this sound to make this amazing listening experience that you can kind of feels like scratching your brain. I love it. But can you tell I'm not a music critic? Archive has a music video for Frying Paint.


Clay: [00:57:53] See, even the title has such like a visceral feeling to it. Frying paint. Like you can like smell the title, you know what I'm saying? Music video comes recommended by Tom and myself. Absolutely love the animation. And once you finish watching that, it's time for Clay's Pick of the Week. Archive has a song called Shouting Within. You can check the show notes for that. Archive has new music that you can listen to. The collection of Call to Arms and Angels and Super Eight are officially the soundtrack to your weekend. I actually have them queued up for all Saturday and Sunday. I'm looking forward to that and I just love having on artists like this. And thank you to our guest this week, Jesse Coleman, for coming on the podcast. You can follow Jesse on Twitter like I just did this week and check out more of documented work. Jesse in particular specializes in corporate lobbying, political spending and corruption issues involving polluting industries. And I know that we have dedicated listeners who would benefit from knowing about Documented's work and Jesse's work immensely. So again, please check the show notes to keep up with everything that they are shedding light on. And I actually want to point out one more piece that Jesse did last year in partnership that I really liked.


Clay: [00:59:16] He did it in partnership with Emily Atkin from Heated, which is a climate newsletter our team reads. And this piece is about ExxonMobil denying its own climate science. And I think it's a great example of a joint report that explains very impressive journalistic findings into a clear communicable form. So linked to that, again, I know I'm saying a lot. It's in the show notes all there go every week to that place. It's where everything is. Thank you, Jessie, for coming on. Okay, if you have been listening the last couple of weeks, you know that our colleague Freya had her master's research published in Nature Communications, and I've requested on the podcast she sent in a quick explainer in plain English, or she was able to nominate one Canadian who could explain it so that we, the people, could understand her findings. Yeah, it's becoming a saga now. Well, listeners have been on the edge of their seats waiting for this, including me. And and after nudging her via text several days in a row, I have received a voice note from Freya. So here we go. Let me play it for you.


Freya: [01:00:28] Okay, so this is my placeholder voice note which I hope enables me to carry over my plant respiration story until next week because I've just stepped away from the pub for about half an hour and tried to do a one minute explainer about five times over. And it's really hard and I'm really struggling and I don't know how Tom, Christiana and Paul do this podcast stuff on a weekly basis, but please, until next week, I'm just going to build suspense a little longer, if that's okay. Oh, and I'm still waiting for Justin Trudeau to get back to me about explaining it himself. 


Clay: [01:01:04] Wow. Okay. So it has come to this. Listeners, next week we will either have Freya or Justin Trudeau on the podcast. Okay. Fair enough. Podcasting ain't easy. Okay, tune in. That will be fun. We'll. See you next week on that. But before I go, one last thing. I you know, this backlash to the ESG situation, especially considering the tensions and divisions it is playing off in our media and society, can be a lot. So I just wanted to offer to everyone, maybe you could take a break from it with our sister podcast, The Way Out Is In, which is a podcast co-produced by us here at Global Optimism, and it's a series aimed at helping us transcend our fear and anger so that we can be more engaged in the world in a way that develops love and compassion and a way forward. So our latest episode, our hosts and close friends, Joe Cansino and Buddhist monk, Brother Apu, they answer listener questions for the entire episode. So everything from how many French fries should monks eat? And by the way, fascinating answer to what is the way to happiness? Spoiler alert, there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. Oooh. You don't want to miss it. That episode comes out tomorrow, Friday, October 14th. Please be sure to check that out and enjoy. And yeah, you can find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at OutrageOptimism. And if you like this podcast, we read every single review. It means the world. If you could leave a review and rating on Apple Podcasts. All right, that's everything for me. You're going to listen to The Way Out Is In. You're going to listen to Archive. Sounds like a plan. Have a great weekend. See you next week. Bye.

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