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OPINION

ESG offset: Banks stuck between a rock and a hard place over surging demand for fossil fuels

Asset managers and index providers are the focus of a backlash against ESG. Banks will face their own reputational roasting as demand for fossil-fuel financing rebounds.

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Pixabay

Nothing concentrates the collective mind of the markets more than an Elon Musk tweet, and his furious reaction to Tesla’s removal from the S&P500 environmental, social and governance index has given fresh energy to the debate over sustainable finance measurements.

“ESG is a scam. It has been weaponized by phony social justice warriors,” Musk tweeted on May 18, adding that S&P had lost its integrity.

His intervention came soon after BlackRock announced that it will support fewer shareholder resolutions linked to climate change this year because proposals are becoming too prescriptive.

These shifts in tack by the head of the biggest electric vehicle maker and the world’s largest asset manager looked like a victory for the self-described “anti-woke” campaigners who are trying to generate a backlash against the application of ESG principles in finance.

Strive Asset Management, a new anti-woke fund that launched in May, drew attention that might seem disproportionate to its $20 million of seed financing because it has backing from well-known investors such as PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and Cantor Fitzgerald head Howard Lutnick.

Strive was set up by Vivek Ramaswamy, a former hedge fund manager who is the author of a book called 'Woke Inc' that puts the case against stakeholder capitalism.

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