Opinion: Environmental, social and governance investing works

This article originally appeared in The Washington Post, on

The Republican-led House Oversight Committee held a hearing this month on environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices as the result of a letter sent from 21 state attorneys general to top asset managers that warned them against using ESG considerations in their investment decisions. It’s the latest GOP attack on responsible investing and, according to Dana Milbank’s May 14 Sunday Opinion column, “The party of capitalism comes for the free market,” the free market.

Research shows that returns on socially responsible investments are on par or better than returns on investments not based on ESG principles, especially over the long term.

Legislation in Texas banning cities from contracting with banks with ESG policies cost investors an extra $303 million to $532 million in higher municipal bond interest rates. Taxpayers in Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and West Virginia could have owed up to $708 million in additional interest charges on municipal bonds because of anti-ESG laws and bills.

ESG investing seeks out information about risk and opportunity that is not necessarily reflected on a company’s balance sheet. Individual, institutional and public asset managers should be free to consider all information when making critical investment decisions. It is not the role of federal or state government to tell asset managers how to manage investments for their clients.

The extremist attorneys general opposing the freedom to invest responsibly — and the fossil fuel, firearm and mining industries supporting them — should know: This is how the free market works.

The most important thing we can do in the face of partisan attacks on ESG is to keep supporting socially responsible investing.

Cathy Cowan Becker, Washington

The writer is the responsible finance campaign director at Green America.