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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

OPINION:

Not many years before Texas A&M University was founded by the Legislature in 1871, then-U.S. Sen. Sam Houston remarked, “I will say, without vaunting, that Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from whatever source it may.”

But what if Texas imports its oppression—on purpose? That’s what environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies amount to; they’re also an assault on our founding principles of free markets, free enterprise and free inquiry.


Nate Sharp, Ph.D., is a professor at A&M and head of accounting at the university’s Mays Business School. He’s also a leading candidate to take over as dean of Mays. As a graduate of both with a BBA in Finance, I’m concerned with the direction that Sharp could take the school.

In Sharp’s letter to the A&M search committee, he said he wants to help make Mays “one school with one spirit and one vision.”

Yet his “vision” is dystopic; Sharp eagerly details to the committee his plans to implement anti-business—and ultimately, anti-capitalism—policies at A&M.

“I will share one last example of an opportunity for the new Dean to lead with vision,” he wrote. “Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations have rapidly become one of the most important areas receiving attention from companies and investors, but I believe we have not yet sufficiently embraced ESG as an emphasis in our teaching and research at Mays. ESG is not a temporary fad or trend; I believe students and employers, now and in the future, will care deeply about topics like social impact and sustainability.”

What is ESG? At best, it’s virtue signaling—but I’m at a loss to see what virtue there is in failing to ensure investors receive the best return on their hard-earned money. At worst, ESG is a scam.

(And for the record, to “rapidly become one of the most important areas receiving attention” is pretty much the definition of a fad.)

The ESG movement typically targets industries deemed politically incorrect, including fossil fuel exploration and production, as well as firearm manufacturing and selling.

As my colleague Jason Isaac points out, “There’s a growing trend in the financial community, driven by boisterous public shaming campaigns, towards environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing — meaning giving more funds to companies who talk the right talk on issues like climate change, instead of to companies that offer the highest return on investment.”

ESG policies can also lead to criminal collusion between investment firms—which are supposed to be competitors. And our research shows that ESG “could violate ERISA and public pension laws that require managers to invest solely for the purpose of maximizing financial returns for pensioners and beneficiaries.”

Texas lawmakers addressed the dire threat of ESG to the state’s energy sector in 2021 with Senate Bill 13. As bill author state Rep. Phil King notes, “It’s not just about jobs and the economy, although those things are important. Energy represents nearly a third of Texas’ GDP and funds more than 10% of the state’s budget… The burgeoning energy discrimination movement is denying capital to our responsible, hard-working energy businesses, which means the energy we need will be less affordable and less secure — and everything we do will be more expensive. It’s a recipe for worsening poverty.”

Several other states have now adopted similar legislation. But that hasn’t stopped the ESG movement; its efforts remain focused on boardrooms and universities—clearly in a bid to spread left-wing policies and ideologies outside of the democratic process.

And that’s what’s troubling about Sharp’s candidacy to lead A&M’s Mays Business School. Mays has provided a solid—even prestigious—business degree for years, yet now, it seems to be racing toward a broken bridge through the safety barriers and right past the sign that says “Go Woke, Go Broke.”

But my alma mater, Texas A&M, deserves better. While Sharp seems to be a well-spoken and highly credentialed academic scholar, his pledge to put wokeness above sound accounting and investing principles shows he’s not the right leader for the Mays Business School.

What’s more, injecting ESG principles into Mays violates at least the spirit of SB 13.

ESG is simply bad business. That’s why we must keep wokeness out of the Mays Business School and ensure that Texas A&M remains one of the best universities in the nation.

  • Greg Sindelar is the Chief Executive Officer of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.


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