How well your state aligns with the environmental and social justice agenda is a new determining factor for S&P’s investment score.
Progressive banks, asset managers, and regulators have successfully imposed the social credit system known as ESG, which stands for environmental, social, and governance, on corporations. In their latest move, ESG will now be applied to states as well.
On March 31, credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) published its first ESG “Report Card” for every U.S. state. This has infuriated some state officials, who are demanding that S&P drop this scoring system.
“It’s a political score,” said Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks. “We’re not going to play along with some outside organization giving us a political score that will determine whether we can borrow capital at the most advantageous rates or not.”
Rating agencies, such as S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch, provide credit scores for companies and governments that borrow money, similar to FICO scores for personal loans. Credit scores have traditionally been a quantitative measure of a borrower’s ability to repay and are a key factor in determining how much borrowers will pay in interest, or if they will be able to borrow at all. ESG, by contrast, focuses on climate activism and social justice issues.
According to S&P’s ESG Report Card, which grades states in each category on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being the most positive rating, Utah was graded a 3 out of 5 in the environmental category because of “water challenges.” The report stated that “environmental factors are a moderately negative consideration in our credit rating analysis for Utah,” citing concerns about how much water Utah may use as its population grows and climate change brings droughts.
“Utah has never been rated less than AAA,” Oaks said, which is S&P’s highest credit score. Any material risks regarding Utah’s ability to repay debt had been included in this general credit rating, he said. “Now the credit rating agencies come along and give us another score that could impact how inexpensively we can borrow money. It’s ridiculous!”
A letter to S&P signed by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Attorney General Sean Reyes, Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, and eight other U.S. Representatives and state officials including Oaks stated that “S&P’s ESG credit indicators politicize what should be a purely financial decision. This politicization has manifested itself in the capital markets where, for