Acton Institute Powerblog

Religious Shareholders at the Climate-Change Dance

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It’s prom season, the time of year when plenty of high school kids eagerly anticipate an invitation to the year’s biggest formal event. It’s no different for the member organizations of religious shareholder activist groups As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Both groups have their tuxedos pressed and dresses tailored for this summer’s highly anticipated climate encyclical from Pope Francis, the progressive left’s version of netting either Kate Upton or Ryan Gosling as prom dates.

In the meantime, ICCR and AYS – who, quite frankly, don’t seem to really care what Pope Francis or any of his predecessors have to say about any topic unless it fits progressive dogma – continue their crusade against fossil fuels while they await the Pope’s invitation to the big dance.

It seems both groups wish to hobble corporations in the name of global warming. Just last month, for example, ICCR released its latest paper, “Invested in Change: Faith-Consistent Investing in a Climate-Challenged World.” From the document’s Executive Summary:

According to The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment’s U.S. Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends report, climate change/carbon emissions criteria remain the most significant environmental factor considered by responsible investors. Investors’ interest in climate change stems not only from their fiduciary concerns regarding the real and immediate risk climate changes poses to their individual institutional assets, but from their concerns about its broader and longer term ramifications on global economic stability and social justice. For faith-consistent investors, these concerns take on a distinctly human dimension as they consider the justice implications for vulnerable communities who will bear the brunt of climate impacts.

And this:

Core strategies for ICCR’s climate change work include: climate change mitigation, mainly through carbon emissions reduction; disclosure of corporate public policy activities made via lobbying and political spending initiatives; improving corporate reporting and accountability through measurement and disclosure of carbon footprints, and encouraging proactive climate change adaptation plans that will reduce climate risk. In addition, members use their influence as shareholders to advocate for stronger legislative and regulatory frameworks that will enforce carbon emissions reductions while advocating for proactive investing in climate solutions, including green energy. Collectively, these strategies press companies to modify their business plans to adapt to climate change realities and hope to accelerate the global transition to a green economy.

The climate change crisis makes it clear that investors cannot afford to be passive; they must raise their voices, participate and leverage their influence as owners of companies. If investors own fossil fuel and carbon-intensive companies, they must be active owners, for while there are many reasons why investors may choose to own fossil fuel stocks, it is irresponsible to own them and not use that power to alter the current paradigm.

Suffice to say ICCR’s core strategies, should they come to pass, would do more than simply hobble corporations by astronomically increasing the costs of doing business, silencing the voices of business advocacy organizations and, as a result of increasing costs, harming other shareholders, employees, customers and negatively impacting the entirety of the targeted companies’ respective economic footprint. As shareholder activists, the ICCR collective is as shaky on economics as they are on “settled” science.

Although she is writing specifically about recent pronouncements from Pope Francis, The London Times’ Melanie Phillips could’ve been just as easily discussing our shareholder activists:

[Pope Francis] has called capitalism ‘an economy of exclusion by an idolatrous system of money.’ This tends to ‘devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits. Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market.’

This radical message may destroy the West and will hurt the poor. His agenda of ‘social justice’ is the twisted contemporary euphemism for coerced economic redistribution, aka soaking the better-off to keep the poor trapped in dependency.

This deification of poverty is a formula for human stagnation and the destruction of political freedom. It repudiates the core understanding of western modernity, that empowering every individual to achieve wealth is the essence of collective prosperity and liberty.

Phillips expands her argument to encompass the hardcore component of the environmental movement, which most certainly includes the member organizations of ICCR and AYS:

Moreover, deep green environmentalism is based on destroying the biblical concept that mankind is the pinnacle of creation. Instead of understanding that man’s dominion over the Earth embodies a command for stewardship of the natural world, environmentalism portrays it as a form of colonialism. To save the planet, mankind must be knocked off its perch. It is a profoundly anti-human doctrine, which is why its anti-modernity message is rooted in movements for population control.

As Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVl, wrote: ‘The radical detachment of the Enlightenment philosophy from its [biblical] roots ultimately leads it to dispense with man.’

‘Climate change’ is religion refracted through the lens of paganism. Like the medieval Church, whose millenarian beliefs it uncannily resembles right down to attempting to destroy heretics as ‘climate-change deniers,’ it declares the imminent apocalypse can only be averted by man repenting his original sin, now redefined as despoiling the planet.

It’s impossible to determine exactly the contents of Pope Francis’ climate-change encyclical until it’s released this summer. However, it’s clear ICCR and AYS are endeavoring to fulfill precisely the agenda about which Phillips warns her readers. If successful, don’t be surprised if every prom theme in the near future is “An Evening Under the Stars” with nothing but acoustic music to dance to for lack of electricity.

Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. Most recently, he was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2007 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past three years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Midland, Mich., with his wife Katherine.

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