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ESG Investors' Billions Choose Silence: Russia’s War of Choice Faces ESGs Moment of Truth

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By Gabriel Thoumi

· 2 min read

Like you, I woke this Sunday morning facing the shock of the silence of war.

Like you, I knew war was coming – the Russian government’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, the warning of a clear and present danger by our political leaders.

Now, friends are missing. Colleagues are gone. Families are fleeing. Children are dead.

Their voices now silent.

And I think of Socrates when facing his executioners in 399 B.C., saying that a person “ought to only consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong, acting the part of a good man or of a bad.”

Even with their commitment to ESG’s promised renaissance of responsible capital – responsible alpha - and with the top 50 U.S. and top 30 UK investors with $58 billion invested Russia’s leading companies whose materiel and taxes fuel the Russian government’s “catastrophic and needless war of choice”, these ESG investors...

…choose silence.

Even though these same ESG investors have strong and clear policies regarding their role in mitigating war, conflict, and human rights abuses, these ESG investors...

…choose silence.

Even though these same ESG investors have, via proxy, many executives in leadership positions at these companies driving the Russian government’s brazen attack on a sovereign nation, these ESG investors...

…choose silence.

Even though these same ESG investors are managing our funds in their role as a fiduciary to meet our ESG objectives, these ESG investors...

...choose silence.

The Russian government’s war of choice is ESG’s moment of truth.

Will ESG’s promise of responsible alpha by shown by global executive leadership?

Will global investment executives break their silence this Sunday morning, February 27, 2022, by executing their fiduciary duties and act decisively to limit these companies' contribution to the Russian government's war of choice?

Or will these same ESG fiduciaries choose the shame of silence, casting doubt on their leadership skills during a time of crisis, confusion, and calamity?

The dead in Ukraine, whether friend or foe or bystander, are silent.

These investors and executives would do well to listen to Socrates’ parting words after being condemned to death when he broke the silence, “O my friends, to punish them… if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue.”

Energy Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Energy & Sustainability writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Gabriel Thoumi is Founder of Responsible Alpha. He is a thematic investment research manager with over 12 years’ experience as an award-winning ESG analyst (2014, 2015, 2020 & 2021), fellowship recipient (2001, 2002, 2005 & 2007), member of various NGO boards and scientific and financial technical committees. He is an adjunct lecturer at Johns Hopkins University where he teaches Financing a Sustainable World.

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