Frequently Asked Questions
What is Freedom to Invest?
Freedom to Invest aims to protect the freedom to invest responsibly in light of a political backlash against responsible investing. Across the country, special interests and their political allies are working to ban businesses from integrating responsible investment and business practices into decision-making. Freedom to Invest has rallied private and public sector leaders from across the business world to remind policymakers that the economy will be stronger and more resilient if businesses can make their own investment decisions, taking into account all material financial risks and opportunities, including those related to climate change. Policies that restrict consideration of risk and opportunity encroach on businesses’ freedoms and simply defy responsible investing.
When was Freedom to Invest launched?
Freedom to Invest was initially launched in March 2023 at Ceres Global when hundreds of investors and companies signed a statement, coordinated by Ceres and the We Mean Business Coalition, emphasizing the importance of prudent investment strategies and smart risk management to protect their investments and business operations. Since then, more private and public sector leaders have joined them in urging policymakers to protect the freedom to invest responsibly and support bold state and national policy and regulatory climate action.
Why was the Freedom to Invest created?
Freedom to Invest was created to respond to an organized campaign by special interests and their political allies that is aimed at spreading misinformation about a decades-old mainstream business practice that ensures long-term shareholder value. For decades, investors and companies have addressed material risks and opportunities that impact their bottom line, including the financial impacts of climate change. Some policymakers are now pushing proposals that would ban investors and companies from taking these considerations into account. Investors and companies should be free to invest in ways that strengthen their future free from the interference of politics. Government has no right to keep businesses from making financial decisions that they believe benefit shareholders, employees and customers.
Who is behind the anti-ESG campaign?
Attacks on the freedom to invest responsibly are being funded and advanced by actors outside of the investment community, mostly fossil fuel interests and conservative political action groups, who are looking to obstruct progress on climate action. Research released by InfluenceMap shows the fossil fuel industry was involved in the drafting and distribution of the first “anti-ESG” bills in Texas and West Virginia and has continued to support other bills that have been introduced in state legislatures. While they hide behind misleading claims around responsible investing, the mainstream investment community and a body of research evidence overwhelmingly supports prudent risk management and responsible business practices to ensure profitability and long-term shareholder value.
Which policy efforts restrict investment and business opportunities?
Some states are considering legislation in various forms designed to restrict investment opportunities and responsible business and banking practices by prohibiting the consideration of climate-related financial risk in their portfolios and business operations. Some attorneys’ generals have sued the U.S. Department of Labor in an attempt to stop a federal regulation that would ensure relevant risk and return factors are considered in employee pension plans, including to simply allow the consideration of climate-related financial risks. However, the economics are in our favor. An analysis found that taxpayer in six states — Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Missouri — could have been on the hook for up to $700 million in excess interest payments if such restrictions on sustainable investing had been passed and implemented.
Which policy efforts support responsible investment and business opportunities?
Investors and companies have long advocated for U.S. state and federal policies and regulations that support the freedom to invest and further accelerate the economic transition to a stronger, more resilient economy such as:
– The Inflation Reduction Act, the largest-ever federal investment in climate action that will provide financial incentives to fuel the clean economy, lower energy costs, reduce harmful pollution, and catalyze sustainable investments;
– The Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would provide more transparency to the market about corporate climate risk disclosure;
– The Department of Labor rule that would level the playing field so fiduciaries can consider all financially relevant factors in making investment decisions.
Do global investor engagement initiatives on climate change, such as Climate Action 100 and Net Zero Asset Managers initiative, violate antitrust laws?
No. These global investor engagement initiatives are not in violation of antitrust laws. Investors are independent fiduciaries with responsibilities to their clients and their own internal governance. They have made their own decisions about factoring the risks and opportunities related to climate change into their investment strategies. Antitrust laws protect competition and prohibit various practices that harm consumers. For example, they prohibit companies from agreeing with each other that they will increase prices or restrict production. These laws do not prohibit investors or companies from working together to achieve a common goal that is not anti-competitive and that they have each independently decided is in their interest. An analysis published by Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law says that antitrust language and concepts have been weaponized in the past year to undermine private sector collaborations on climate initiatives.
Does responsible investing compromise financial returns?
Opponents of responsible investing claim that considering climate risk and other material financial risks can compromise financial returns. But prudent investors must consider all relevant issues—including environmental, social and governance factors — that either create risks or signal investment opportunities across their portfolios. In a comprehensive study of more than 1,000 research articles published between 2015-2020, most found a positive link between ESG and investment performance (Forbes 2023). A 2019 McKinsey & Company study found a strong ESG proposition correlates with higher equity returns.
The studies highlight that, in fact, there is good evidence that ESG-screened funds or ESG-oriented investment products can produce higher returns than their traditional benchmarks. These studies highlight the importance of considering these factors and they do not compromise returns. In many cases, they can improve long-term economic returns.