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Environmental stewardship is new ‘guise’ for mercantilism, will lead to global instability: Heritage president

The rise of global “Environmental Social & Governance” (ESG) is essentially mercantilism being disguised as environmental stewardship, and something Americans should be concerned about, Heritage Foundation President Dr. Kevin Roberts told Fox News Digital in a recent interview.

In mercantilism, which was prominent during the Colonial era, nations sought to grow the state through regulation of certain economic sectors, as a means to compete in a global trade-based hierarchy, typified by the control Britain then exerted on American cotton and tobacco exports.

Roberts cited the recent government collapse in Sri Lanka, which had instituted bans on chemical fertilizers deemed environmentally unfriendly. The ban, among other factors, led to greatly decreased harvests, shortages and eventually unrest that caused Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign and evacuate his Colombo palace earlier this year.

“There’s a 100% correlation” between pursuit of ESG goals and such instability, Roberts said. “I actually think it’s a version of mercantilism happening in the 21st century under the guise of environmental stewardship.”


“I hate that the people of Sri Lanka and the Netherlands are having to face the unrest and the financial concerns that they have. I don’t wish that on anyone,” he continued, adding that he and others have been sounding the alarm over ESG governance leading to implications such as that.

He told Fox News Digital the E.U. and other governments in the developed world are, whether directly or indirectly, convincing countries like Sri Lanka to adopt ESG in hopes of receiving attention and, more importantly, financial support.

“[Government officials] from Europe in particular are very clear that the incentives… the European Union [and] major European governments talk about for developing countries like Sri Lanka are all oriented around those countries implementing the ESG agenda entirely,” said Roberts.


Dr. Kevin Roberts serves as the seventh president in Heritage’s 48-year history.

“And so, if you are the leader of a place like Sri Lanka, all you’re hearing from the developed world from which you will get a lot of capital is that ‘You better go do this, you better implement these ESG policies’,” he said.

Sri Lanka and the Netherlands boast an ESG score in the 90s, while the United States trails behind in that metric.

In the Netherlands, farmers have been protesting their government over similar pro-ESG policies like nitrogen emission reductions they say threaten crop yields and therefore their own well-being. Holland is the second-largest food exporter besides the United States.

That situation turned more serious earlier this month when irate farmers aboard tractors were fired upon by Dutch law enforcement.

Roberts told Fox News Digital the Heritage Foundation has done research into the correlation between Dutch and Sri Lankan environmental policies and the unrest cropping up in both countries – and offered words of warning for the U.S. as President Biden and Democrats show favor for their similar “Green New Deal” platform.


Lawmaker Lakshman Kiriella, left, former President Maithripala Sirisena, center and former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attend the swearing-in ceremony of Sri Lanka's newly elected President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Colombo, July 21, 2022.

Dutch politicians have “bought wholesale this [ESG] concept” in order to remain in the good graces of the European Union’s Brussels government, he said.

“[T]he Dutch are literally having to pay for this now. And especially Dutch farmers are raising the flag… It is these examples are very telling examples of what the American future will look like in just years, not decades, if we continue any further down this path of implementing the Green New Deal.”

Roberts said he first learned about the ESG concept with the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which sought to battle global warming through emission-reduction requirements, wherein states were to submit plans on how to achieve such goals.

While President Donald Trump effectively helped end the plan in 2019, Roberts said some financial firms are themselves seeking to institute ESG practices by focusing on green investments.

Just last week, Biden announced that he will be implementing a number of executive actions focused on combating climate change. The administration has stayed away from using the Green New Deal as the term for its aggressively green agenda.

Pointing to a recent interview he held with one state official trying to combat ESG governance, Roberts credited West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore for his stance against implementing such a platform.


President Joe Biden speaks at the former Brayton Point Power Station in Massachusetts, announcing executive action to confront climate change.

“ESG is already upon us,” he said, pointing to public and private sector concerns. “What Heritage has participated in is helping a couple dozen state financial officers do what Riley Moore has done – and that is to say that if you’re a private investment firm and you’re using ESG practices, that you’re not going to get the business of these public investments,” he said.

“We need that kind of action at the federal level, both at the administrative level, to undo what Biden has done. But also we need positive legislative action by that presumed conservative majority next year to put to rest all of these threats about this federal government requiring ESG and publicly traded funds.”

“I would like for Americans, as [Moore] pointed out, who have begun to equate ESG with environmental stewardship, to know that they are not at all the same thing – and that we can be morally upright stewards of nature; of what God has given us; and realize that ESG actually gets in the way of humans flourishing,” Roberts concluded.

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