ESG: Tobacco companies among the most ethical in the world

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

ESG–Environmental, Social, and Governance investing principles–are measured by scores given to companies that are supposed to measure how progressive companies are in promoting a better world.


A world where the environment is cherished, social justice is achieved, and companies are governed ethically.

So it should be no surprise to anybody that tobacco companies have some of the highest ESG scores in the world. Far higher than Tesla, which makes electric cars that environmentalists so desperately want to replace internal combustion engines.

The fact that tobacco companies are becoming the darlings of the ESG movement tells you a lot about what counts toward measuring human well-being in the minds of ESG proponents.

ESG ratings are supposed to guide investors, and their money, toward ethical enterprises. But Big Tobacco has lapped Tesla in the ESG ratings race more than once: Sustainalytics, a widely used ESG ratings tool, gives Tesla a worse score than Altria, one of the largest tobacco producers in the world. And the London Stock Exchange gives British American Tobacco an ESG score of 94—the third highest of any company on the exchange’s top share index—while Tesla earns a middling 65.

How could cigarettes, which kill over eight million people each year, be deemed a more ethical investment than electric cars? It may have something to do with the tobacco industry’s embrace of corporate progressivism.

Companies like Altria have gone out of their way to emphasize the diversity of their corporate boards and the breadth of their social justice initiatives, from funding minority businesses to promoting transgender women in sports. But Tesla, whose executives are overwhelmingly white men, has resisted that bandwagon, going so far as to fire its top LGBT diversity officer last year.

The “S” in ESG typically includes diversity programs. Philip Morris International, which in 2021 advertised a partnership with “African data scientists,” got a social score of 84 from S&P Global. Tesla got a measly 20.


Whether companies actually make the world a better place or not is utterly beside the point; what matters is compliance with an ideological agenda that the ESG proponents really care about.

I have never been impressed with the nanny staters who engaged in the war on smoking. In general, I think people should be allowed to engage in self-destructive behavior if they are fully informed about what they are getting into. Some behaviors have substantial enough externalities that they should be restricted or highly discouraged, but those tend to be edge cases such as meth and cocaine. I don’t buy for a moment the propaganda about pot being totally benign, but I also think that it is pointless to fight over restricting it beyond reasonable regulations.

But I also recognize that selling cigarettes is a pretty nasty business and the business isn’t exactly humanitarian. These companies are selling a slow death–and I say this as a former smoker who is tolerant of others’ choices. Cigarettes kill people, and putting a stamp of approval on the companies which do so tells me that the people doing so are not selfless humanitarians. They care about something other than human flourishing.

We all know what that something is: Leftist ideology. ESG scores are based on checklists for engaging in the activities that the international elite wants to promote, and they have zero interest in promoting human flourishing. The fact that you will die early is a bonus, not a detriment to their way of thinking. All the BS about the expenses to society of smoking-related diseases misses a bigger point: end-of-life care is always expensive, but so are pensions, and early deaths leave a lot of money unspent in non-healthcare-related areas of the budget. Smokers may cost a bit more in healthcare expenses–although most people die of expensive diseases anyway, so the differential is smaller than you think–but the government actually makes a profit off you dying early.


Even better if you use MAID!

ESG points are awarded on issues unrelated to the health and well-being of people. Obeisance to the alphabet ideology being one of the main points as you know.

ESG company ratings often measure abstract woke goals that have no rational connection to companies’ actual businesses,” said Boyden Gray & Associates managing partner Jonathan Berry, who sued NASDAQ last year over its diversity requirements for corporate boards. “Companies score ‘points’ mainly by demonstrating their compliance with the latest dogmas issued by the DEI complex.”

Cigarettes are the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more people than alcohol, illegal drugs, and car accidents combined. And their supply chain involves a litany of environmental sins: The industry’s carbon footprint is substantial, and even e-cigarettes, marketed as a less harmful alternative to tobacco, can result in serious pollution because they don’t biodegrade. Tobacco farming, which mostly takes place in developing countries, causes deforestation and soil erosion. Tobacco workers are exposed to toxic chemicals, including high doses of nicotine, which can lead to hospitalization.

But ESG ratings often mask those effects. Some scores, including S&P Global’s, say in fine print that they are sector-specific, which means companies are held to different standards depending on their industry. An unusually green tobacco giant could score better than an electric carmaker with an all-male board, and corporations can earn points merely by setting water reduction targets or using “diverse” suppliers.


Companies can literally kill people as a business model, but if they have a gender-balanced Board they are rewarded with a stamp of approval. For all the posturing about making the world a better place, the fact is that ESG is all about making the world a more Leftist place.

Never, ever, EVER simply trust a person or company based upon what they say their intentions are. Look at what they actually do.

In some cases, people are genuinely interested in the well-being of others, but in many or even most, they are looking out for themselves.

Sam Bankman-Fried was famously an “effective altruist,” whose shtick was doing good through doing well.

Look how that turned out.

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