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The recent news about S&P Global dropping its ESG credit ratings has become a bigger deal than expected. I blogged last Wednesday that much of the hype and news was erroneous or misinformed and followed that on Friday noting that even more of the reporting was either wrong or very unclear about what S&P is actually doing. I didn’t expect that things would continue to spin out of control, but alas… Two days ago, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey issued this statement taking a victory lap:

“’Missouri is proud to be leading the way in the fight against illegal, woke investing with other like-minded attorneys general. I applaud S&P’s public comments indicating they are changing course and following the law by putting its shareholders before a political agenda. As Missouri’s Attorney General, I will ensure that financial institutions are providing recommendations based upon the economic value of prospective investments – as the law demands – rather than squandering Missourians’ hard-earned retirement savings on funding a leftist ideology.’”

Which is, well, true to a very small extent. In an ironic twist, the AG’s press release has a link to S&P’s own announcement – clarifying exactly what S&P is doing and not doing. What they are doing is eliminating the alphanumeric “grade” in the reports. What they are not doing is eliminating the ESG analysis in those reports.

From that S&P press release:

“… we have determined that the dedicated analytical narrative paragraphs in our credit rating reports are most effective at providing detail and transparency on ESG credit factors material to our rating analysis, and these will remain integral to our reports.”

The point here is not to throw shade at the Missouri AG, but to demonstrate how anti-ESG actors (and perhaps others) may put their own “spin” on ESG communications and then push that narrative to the public. Companies need to monitor what others are saying about their ESG programs – including policymakers and law enforcement agencies – and act quickly to correct problems before misunderstandings spiral out of control.

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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