Politicizing Business: From CSR to ESG

Reposted from the Institute of Energy Research


DECEMBER 15, 2020

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)… stakeholder theory … sustainability … environmental, social, and governance investing (ESG). Whatever the term, the premise is that business is a cultural failure as well as a “market failure” and therefore must be socially regulated in addition to being governmentally regulated.

In the climate-alarmism era, CSR and ESG have focused intensively on energy companies. The very term ESG is recent, adding climate change and social justice to more traditional concerns about resource depletion and employment diversity.

Yet, instructively, the corporate darlings of this movement—Enron in the 1990s and BP thereafter—turned out to be anything but good corporate citizens. Enron’s systemic failure cost many tens of thousands of jobs and brought capitalism into disrepute. BP’s Deepwater Horizon blow-out resulted in nearly $70 billion in clean-up costs, fines, and other charges, in addition to manslaughter verdicts.

Now, the past forgotten, a new generation of ESG-pressured business is emerging, some for a second act (BP). Caveat emptor.

“Green” Enron

Remember Enron? Ken Lay’s colossus was the first major US corporation to bang the climate drum (in 1988) and invest heavily into solar panels and wind turbines. Enron, in fact, resuscitated the dormant solar industry in 1995 and struggling wind industry in 1997. (The story can be found in my 2018 paper, “The Economic Fall and Political Rise of Renewable Energy.”)

In the fall of 2001, Ken Lay set the tone for what would be Enron’s last Environmental, Health, and Safety Management Conference:

We believe that incorporating environmental and social considerations into the way we manage risk, govern our projects, and develop products and services will help us maintain our competitive advantage. As we move forward, we will leverage our intellectual capital and innovative capabilities to promote sustainable business practices around the world.

At this meeting, Enron’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) task force listed its Accomplishments to Date.

  • Secured board oversight of social/environmental performance
  • Expressed support for Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Completed corporate responsibility task force
  • Developed and pilot-tested human rights audit
  • Developed security and human rights guidelines
  • Established formal partnerships with WBCSD [World Business Council on Sustainable Development], IBLF [International Business Leaders Forum], and CI [Conservation International]
  • Identified language to strengthen code of ethics
  • Providing project support—Calypso, Transredes, Dabhol and Cuiabá
  • Responding to stakeholder concerns on an ongoing basis

The goals for 2002 included:

  • Formally adopt CERES Principles
  • Complete indigenous peoples’ policy
  • Specify social/environmental expectations in formal relationships with vendors and contractors
  • Review results of stakeholder survey and develop strategy to address outcome
  • Create awareness of social/environmental trends among [Enron’s] origination and investment groups
  • Add corporate responsibility performance attribute to PRC [Performance Review Committee] process
  • Present task force recommendations to Dr. Lay and senior management

Enron’s CSR was about trying to be everyone’s favorite company—and helping to monetize its “green” energy investments (seven profit centers in all). It ended in December 2001 when, out of money and time, Enron went down with its green lights on.

BP “Environmentalism”

Remember “beyond petroleum” BP? Then-head John Browne bought into the climate alarm in a 1997 speech and, despite a fortuitous purchase of Amoco the next year, drove his company down with the help of his successor, Tony Hayward. A group of environmental problems (BP was more interested in climate imaging than boots-on-the-ground safety) culminated in the preventable May 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout.

The Left’s favorite energy company (like Enron before), BP became Exhibit A against offshore drilling and fossil fuels in general. The “sustainability” crowd was again embarrassed. “Oops: ‘Socially Responsible’ Funds Hold Big Stakes of BP,” a Wall Street Journal article was titled at the time. And in his piece Beyond Pathetic, Andrew Wilson noted:

With great big blobs of oil washing up on the shore, it is almost comical—no, it is comical—to see some of BP’s erstwhile friends in academia and other centers of high-minded thought running for cover. To cite one example, thanks to BP sponsorship, 300 researchers in white lab coats at Berkeley are busily searching for ways to make green fuels that will reduce our dependence on oil. In 2007, BP set up the Energy Biosciences Institute, saying it would spend $500 million over the next ten years to support research into plant-based fuels at Berkeley and two other universities. This is the largest corporate donation ever for university research.

Biofuel for transportation in place of gasoline and diesel? Once mighty Exxon Mobil has since shinnied down this path. The hoped-for “fuel of the future,” politically correct, economically incorrect, has attracted criticism from all sides.

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At BP, “big promises” has replaced “beyond petroleum.” New CEO Bernard Looney talks big about “net zero” carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050. (“The world’s carbon budget is finite and running out fast,” he states.)

For an oil and gas company, this seems somewhere between fanciful and bizarre. To environmentalists, it’s greenwashing. To consumers, it’s an unnecessary corporate cost item. To stockholders, it is a warning sign of a distracted corporation.

Real Corporate “Responsibility”

“I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the publick good,” Adam Smith wrote in the 18th century. “It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and every few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.”

“The two greatest enemies of free enterprise in the United States,” Milton Friedman once stated, “have been, on the one hand, my fellow intellectuals and, on the other hand, the business corporations of this country.”

Centuries apart, Smith and Friedman fingered the contra-capitalist business models of Enron, BP, and other companies that banked on fads, misdirection, and political favor. What is now called ESG (environmental, social and governance investing) is old vinegar in new bottles.


Businesses are not and cannot be governments or nonprofits. For-profit enterprises are wealth creators in the realm of mutually advantageous exchange, not arbiters of debatable ideologies. Carbon-based energy providers should not pretend to be otherwise at the expense of consumers and/or owners.

America is reaping the rewards of what largely is free-market energy policy. Energy dominance should not be compromised by ESG, much less government intervention in the years ahead.

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Joel O'Bryan
December 15, 2020 6:14 pm

CSR, ESG, .. it is all a continuation of the BDS crap that libtards love to throw around a political correctness.

Very Orwellian. Not just about the climate scam, but everything they want it to define, including mandatory diversity hiring and garbage ideas like Critical Race Theory. It is all very much rooted in a Marxist ideology that George Orwell understood very well.

December 15, 2020 6:22 pm

Fraud, Crime, the Environmental movement and the Democrats are all closely related.

December 15, 2020 6:33 pm

“must be socially regulated in addition to being governmentally regulated.”
I’d have said “socially regulated by a new form of government.” might be seem to the actual goal.

December 15, 2020 6:43 pm

The USA is repeating the Fall of the Roman Empire. Vale Pres Trump.

Janice Moore
Reply to  BoyfromTottenham
December 15, 2020 7:26 pm

Not yet, dear boy.

To wit:



Take heart!

Trump’s de facto victory will yet become de jure.

“With God, all things are possible.”

Janice Moore
Reply to  BoyfromTottenham
December 15, 2020 7:41 pm

Here is my second attempt (at the published, then, disappeared, comment )


Not yet, my dear boy.

To wit:



Take heart!

Trump’s de facto win will become de jure.

“With God, all things are possible.”

Reply to  BoyfromTottenham
December 16, 2020 7:03 am

The United States and the American Experiment have recently failed. There was more than one step. Sworn testimony, physical evidence and unusual time-line issues seem to imply a fraudulent election. Then, the institutions, including the courts (“no standing”) refuse to address or discuss this possibility. Finally, both the people and the institutions let it happen. Mr Trump is trying to “stand in the gap” alone and this does not seem, at this time, to be enough to reverse this fall.

The Chinese “Shining Path” tried and nearly succeeded in overtaking Peru; one individual actually stood in the gap. Venezuela had a fraudulent election. Apparently for the reasons above, it stood. Venezuela fell.

Janice Moore
December 15, 2020 7:08 pm


That’s the goal of all the scammers pushing solar and “renewables” in general.

Eliminate what feeds it, the funding (via rate surcharges, taxpayer funds, etc.), and the economy-killing tumor of “renewables” will disappear.

Without OPM and market share by fiat, all the bright minds currently pushing shameful scams will go back to making an HONEST profit the “old fashioned way:”

earn it.*

*”Earn” = cover cost of production with private funds of a superior product for which there is a BONA FIDE demand.


Note: I realize that most of those pushing “renewables” are basically decent people. But, as the great Milton Friedman often reminded us, “people are not angels.” HONESTY must be ensured by removing incentives to defraud.

Recently, this issue became deeply personal to me. I learned yesterday that my dearest person in the world is using his God-given gifts (he is exceptionally bright and possesses an extraordinary ability to persuade) to push a solar scam.

He doesn’t consider it a scam. His heart is so blinded by the lie (that maintenance costs and other factors do not make solar negative ROI without OPM, etc.) AND his strong drive to make money

that his keen intellect

is failing

to inform him.

All I can do is pray that God opens his eyes.
And tell him that I love him.

Yes. Even though he is involved in a disgusting activity, I still love him. And that is why my heart is breaking. If I didn’t love, I would just be disgusted. Love hurts.

(thanks for “listening,” dear WUWTers, your old pal Janice needed to unburden herself)

Janice Moore
December 15, 2020 7:37 pm

My comment was published, then it disappeared. No explanation, just gone. There were 5 total comments about 10 minutes ago, now, it is back to 4!

Reply to  Janice Moore
December 15, 2020 7:47 pm

Janice, maybe WUWT is using Dominion software?
“You can make it do anything you want it to”

Janice Moore
Reply to  Mr.
December 15, 2020 8:36 pm

Dear Mr. (Kindness),

Thanks for the courtesy of an acknowledgment of my frustration.

Heh. Yes! That’s what’s going on. It kicks all our comments into adjudication, then, the adjudicator “fixes” them.

Your WUWT ally,


December 15, 2020 7:51 pm

With the Marxists it’s always about ideology and everything else is noise. The end justifies the means. By controlling the narrative on life through media they control society.

Flight Level
December 15, 2020 7:58 pm

A few years ago “mother” introduced the “Pro-Klima” envelopes where passengers could put small donations to save the climate on certain flights.

However the real purpose was to assess the public involvement on that matter.

Then it all suddenly ceased. Rumors are that besides disposable coins, rather consequent face value bills regularly made their way in the process. Which was not the purpose of the operation and had negative impact on the cabin crew morale who witnessed the disparity between the extreme rarity of “tips” for the job well done and the cash some passengers threw on futile “save the climate” virtue signaling.

Janice Moore
December 15, 2020 7:59 pm

And here is my second attempt at my “Your comment is in moderation” post of about 45 minutes ago



Take away what feeds the economy-destroying tumor of “renewables,” and all the bright minds (heartbreakingly, including one who is very dear to me) currently pushing the solar sc@m, etc., will use their talents to make a profit “the old-fashioned way:”

earn it.*

*”Earn” means to cover the cost of production with private funds of a superior product for which there is a bona fide demand.


Maintenance and other costs currently make solar, etc., permanently negative ROI without rate surcharges, taxpayer funding, and other OPM,m (e.g., fooling a homebuyer into an “investment” in solar which, due to too low an EROI, maintenance costs, and too short a useful life of the equipment, never pay off for 99% of them).

Janice Moore
Reply to  Janice Moore
December 15, 2020 9:10 pm

Moreover, regardless of how close a “renewables” purchaser comes to breaking even, coal, nuclear, petroleum, and hydro’s ROI and EROEI are so much greater that “investing” in “renewables” is foolish.

(for two thorough and respected analysts, see: 1) Ruth Lea re: wind; and 2) Ozzie Zehner re: solar)

December 15, 2020 9:24 pm

Businesses are obligated to adhere to EPA, GAAP, DOL, product liability, SEC, and many other alphabet soup government corporate laws and regulations.

Other than these legal regulations and obligations, corporations should not waste money on Leftist social-justice agendas.

Free enterprise competition and general social morals and ethics will assure the vast majority of corporations treat their employees, customers and environment well, and if any corporations violate laws, they should be severely fined and punished.

Any profits should be invested in the company for: new products/services, R&D, capital investments, business expansion, innovation, attracting the best employees, etc., which best serves both corporate and societal needs, and not wast money on such canards such as “race sensitivity classes”..

Individuals in companies should morally and ethically donate to charities and political issues they support, but corporations should not, however, corporations should be able to make political donations to protect their business interest…

December 16, 2020 8:18 am

It isn’t just the field of business. It is seeking to control and guide our every word and thought.

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