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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

[Ed. note: Next week will be light on blogs in recognition of the holidays.]

Earlier this week, Texas legislators excused financial services firm Vanguard from a scheduled hearing about the company’s ESG investment policies. Originally, the company – along with BlackRock and State Street – were to appear before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs for a little chat. Vanguard got a pass as a result of its recent withdrawal from the Net Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) initiative. That news was covered in Monday’s ESG in the News.

According to Financial Times,

“On Wednesday the committee said that Vanguard no longer needed to attend the hearing in the small city of Marshall. It cited the $7.1tn asset manager’s decision last week to abandon the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative, whose members have committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. ‘The committee is encouraged by your withdrawal . . . and by your stated desire to ‘make clear that Vanguard speaks independently on matters of importance to [its] investors’,’ committee chair Bryan Hughes wrote in a letter to Vanguard.”

At the same time, Hughes stated in his letter that the committee “will continue to evaluate your ESG practices and your relationship to Texas pension systems”.

Could this be the start of effective anti-ESG actions? I don’t think so at the company level, but it might impact membership of various climate and other industry initiatives. Vanguard made it clear in their public statement about the NZAM withdrawal that they continue to follow their ESG policies:

“This change in NZAM membership status will not affect our commitment to helping our investors navigate the risks that climate change can pose to their long-term returns. We will continue to provide investors the information and products they need to make sound investment choices, including products designed to meet net zero objectives. We will continue to interact with companies held by Vanguard funds to understand how they address material risks, including climate risk, in the interests of long-term investors. And we will continue to publicly report on our efforts with respect to climate risk, grounded in our deep commitment to our investors and their financial well-being.”

One more thing we are watching and monitoring for you in the coming months.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile