top of page

Actions > words: What's next for ESG?

Sharp perspectives. Deep expertise. Cutting-edge innovations. Purposeful Connections is your bi-weekly source for the latest in purpose and ESG. Subscribe here.

"ESG" is still a tarnished phrase to many investors, and this has pushed companies like BlackRock to embrace different terminology altogether—but importantly, has not stopped such companies from taking concrete actions towards a more sustainable future. BlackRock's strategic pivot away from politicized ESG language and towards substantive investments in clean-energy infrastructure (or "transition investing") underscores a pragmatic approach to sustainable investing. It's also a wise move for BlackRock, after CEO Larry Fink became a target on Wall Street for his annual shareholder letters, which in recent years led to increasing backlash against the firm. While it's not using the term ESG these days, BlackRock is still "doing the work": The firm's acquisition of Global Infrastructure Partners for $12.5 billion is a bold move into owning and operating renewable energy, transportation, and utility assets globally. Critically, this strategy aims to address the challenges that ESG investing has faced, such as underperformance compared to the broader market and skepticism regarding the actual environmental impact. By focusing on direct investments in infrastructure related to solar power, natural gas from bio-waste, and carbon capture, investors can contribute to the energy transition in a material way. While the mega-investor's track record on ESG issues is far from perfect, the firm's recalibration of its stance on ESG signals a more nuanced understanding of the complex landscape of sustainable investing.

📈 Purpose @ work: What do your employees need to be fulfilled at work? In this deep-dive, our CEO Carol Cone and Partner Kristian Merenda talk about the factors affecting employee productivity, motivation, and happiness at work—and how purpose can serve as a connective tissue to make people happier and healthier on the job.

🌯 Chicken or beef?: Eating sustainably can be tough. A new app concept aims to help consumers make planet-wise choices next time they eat out by highlighting the environmental impact of various menu choices. While the tech is still conceptual, the idea is sound: give consumers the tools to evaluate meal choices based on a sustainability score, knowing that some meals may be more "green" than others (balance is everything!). Simply educating consumers on the carbon footprint of various ingredients could be a big step forward—because it's not as easy as going meatless on Mondays. Avocados, for example, can have a carbon footprint on par with ingredients like beef or cheese.

🚨 Tackling the biggest public health crisis: Gun violence is the nation's biggest public health crisis, according to a new initiative from the Ad Council and a coalition of hospitals and health systems. The two-year campaign aims to reduce firearm deaths and injuries in the US by educating Americans about how both gun owners and non-gun owners can make their homes and communities safer. Currently, firearm injuries are the leading cause of death for children and teens ages 1–19.

⚖️ Adaptation vs Mitigation: As the impacts of climate change become more visible and pressing in communities around the world, it's important to understand some of the terminology. Especially when investments in one solution—like mitigation—can "undermine the other," and vice versa. The situation playing out along Vietnam's Mekong River illustrates the challenges of investing in one or the other, and similar trade-offs are happening in many of our backyards across the US. For decades, the region has invested in clean energy by building hydroelectric dams—nearly 200 of them—which now present a threat to biodiversity in the region. Interrupting the river's regular flow has resulted in saltwater intrusion along the Mekong delta, which is harming crops and eroding precious agricultural land.

How do we identify the companies that are truly good? JUST Capital has an annual solution: the JUST 100 rankings which spotlights the businesses that prioritize their workers, communities, customers, the environment, and shareholders and governance over profit alone. We invited Martin Whittaker, CEO of JUST Capital, to explore the recently released 2024 rankings.


bottom of page