By Corinne Murdock |
Arizona may place another major company on a list of prohibited investments for allegedly boycotting the state of Israel. It would be the second company deemed in violation of Arizona’s ban against Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) of Israel. Arizona already placed Unilever on that list over the Israel BDS enacted by its subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s.
Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee gave the Chicago-based financial services company, Morningstar, 30 days to prove that they weren’t boycotting Israel. In a press release on Monday, Yee shared that her office suspected Morningstar of boycotting because its subsidiary, Sustainalytics, employed environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policies that punished companies doing business in Israel with poorer scoring.
Arizona doesn’t have any public funds invested in Morningstar presently.
Yee said that ESG-focused companies benefitting from taxpayer dollars victimize other companies in order to advance “woke political gamesmanship.”
“ESG ratings are a political scorecard, not a financial scorecard,” said Yee. “I will not allow companies to promote policies that are antisemitic and discriminatory efforts against Israel, which is America’s longtime friend and ally, and a significant trade partner with Arizona.”
In her letter, Yee pointed Morningstar CEO Kunal Kapoor to his company’s own 117-page report investigating Sustainalytics released in early June. Morningstar insisted in an affiliated press release that it didn’t support boycotts of Israel, and cleared Sustainalytics of boycotting accusations. However, Yee said that pages 69-73, 86-93, and 97-99 of the report proved otherwise.
“ESG, in itself, is a subjective exercise and suffers from inherent bias. While [the] report says there was no bias against Israel, that is not the question presented to us under Arizona law,” wrote Yee. “The very fact that Sustainalytics has chosen to review companies doing business in Israel under the guise of its ESG ratings system, violates Arizona law as your company is ‘performing actions that are not intended to limit commercial relations with entities doing business in Israel.’”
ESG began in 2004 when former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan convened over 50 CEOs from the top financial institutions in a bid to influence markets. Annan’s coordination prompted the rollout of early ESG models, such as the New York Stock Exchange’s Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in 2006 and the Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative (SSEI) in 2007.
Today, ESG models award scoring to measure companies based on equity-based initiatives. For example, environmental criteria might include waste reduction efforts or natural resource conservation; social criteria might include restorative justice initiatives or reproductive care funding like abortions; and governance criteria might include weighing issues that impact company stakeholders.