Is breaking free of ESG’s stranglehold enough to restore Corporate America’s proper role in society?

No, argue Alliance Defending Freedom’s Jeremy Tedesco and Daniel Cochrane in a recent piece at Law & Liberty. Although there’s no question that cutting ties with the deeply problematic framework is necessary in the effort to restore corporations and even the free market itself to their rightful place in society, C-suite leaders should think more deeply about their responsibilities to fellow citizens.

Tedesco and Cochrane write:

ESG is objectionable not only because it distracts businesses from pursuing morally legitimate ends, but also because it requires businesses to undermine basic social goods in the name of “equity,” “sustainability,” and “social justice.” These “basic social goods” comprise the fundamental building blocks of any healthy society, including core civil liberties such as freedom of expression and religion, along with the attendant institutions of civil society that make their preservation and exercise possible.

Spearheading the effort for Viewpoint Diversity Score, Tedesco and Cochrane illustrate their broader argument by highlighting how large corporations’ recent actions in the “S” (social) category of ESG—such as censoring speech under the banner of “misinformation,” promoting abortion in the wake of the Dobbs decision, or foisting divisive concepts at the heart of Critical Race Theory (CRT) on employees via diversity training—undermine basic, God-given freedoms.

Rather than settling for a baseline standard of “profits over politics,” the authors make their case that business leaders would do better to adopt a “do no harm” principle that sets its sights on preserving and protecting basic liberties.

In the Western tradition, ethical norms are derived from principles of natural law, discernable through reason, and mediated by institutions of civil society, including families, communities of faith, schools, charities, and other civic associations.

Insofar as businesses shape and are shaped by other institutions of civil society, they have a moral duty to seek the good of those communities by avoiding actions that do them harm. Such determinations are doubtless complex and context-dependent, but they are necessary in a world where private corporations play a pivotal role in our public and private lives.

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