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

We’ve written quite a bit about the Anti-ESG movement in the past year or so as it aims to stop momentum that ESG has gathered and reverse course. Primarily this has been attempted through threats of anti-trust enforcement for climate pacts, and the passage of anti-ESG investing laws that prohibit state funds from being invested with financial institutions that consider ESG factors in their investment decisions. 2023 saw a flurry of such laws with 161 proposed bills relating to ESG in statehouses across the US. However, the fervor to pass such legislation has died down as a recent Ropes & Gray memo discusses:

“As of mid-June 2024, we have seen a precipitous drop-off from last year in state ESG-related legislation, with half the number of bills proposed and a quarter of the number of bills enacted… This decline might come as a surprise, given that the initiatives motivating last year’s wave of anti-ESG legislation have not abated.”

But let’s hold off on celebrating too soon. The slowdown isn’t due to a lack of enthusiasm among the anti-ESG movement – it’s because they got what they wanted, the bills passed. The next phase of anti-ESG action will be enforcement of those laws. The memo states:

“We do not believe that this drop in overall legislative activity reflects a drop in concern over ESG in red states. Instead, we have observed multiple red states focused on the implementation of their existing anti-ESG laws, including through side letter and certification requests for managers of state assets.”

Yet the slowdown isn’t a complete halt or a reversal: anti-ESG laws are being introduced and passed at a higher rate than pro-ESG laws. With many laws now on the books, the battlefield shifts from the statehouse to the courthouse where many of these laws are likely to be challenged. How those cases will shake out will determine the future landscape of ESG investing. Of course, anti-ESG sentiment also found an audience in the general public and consumers as Lawrence highlighted in one of yesterday’s blogs.

Our members can learn more about anti-ESG here.

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile