State-by-State Snapshot of the ESG Policy Landscape 2023

October 13, 2023

Last fall, BCW and Direct Impact (DI) completed a State-by-State Snapshot of the ESG Policy Landscape following the 2022 midterm elections. Focusing on 22 influential and political “battle ground” states, we provided insights and cautious predictions on the direction of environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies over the 2023-2024 legislative session cycle across deep red places like Florida, deep blue places like California and “purple” states like Pennsylvania.

We can confidently say our predictions held firm across the top 10 “trendsetting” states we chose to spotlight last November. At the same time, there were a few surprises we discovered that are worth mentioning – notably Michigan. Despite historic Democratic control over both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion in Lansing, policymakers did not move as quickly and aggressively toward advancing ESG policies as one might have expected when the spring session convened.

However, in kicking off the fall legislative session in Lansing, Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered a speech in which she called on legislators to advance policies that will require Michigan’s utility providers to produce 100 percent of their energy from clean and renewable sources such as wind and solar as well as nuclear. “We can achieve 100 percent clean energy while balancing reliability and affordability,” Whitmer said during her remarks.

Surprises weren’t exclusive to Michigan. In a novel ruling out of Montana, a judge found that the state legislature has a constitutional mandate to consider the impact of emissions when issuing permits for fossil fuel development. Though open to appeal, the ruling was the result of a small advocacy group leveraging ESG laws to secure judicial intervention with major long-term consequences for the state’s energy sector – demonstrating how easily ESG issues can be weaponized in service of broader policy agendas.

Heading into 2024, the polarizing ESG landscape has only escalated over the last six months – to the point that BlackRock CEO Larry Fink won’t even reference the three-lettered term as it has been “weaponized by left and right".

Read the full report here.

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