Morning session A: ESG – Just a fad, or here to stay?

ESG, standing for Environmental, social, and governance, has become the buzzword of the last few years. From the perspective of ESG conscious investors, it’s about investing companies who believe what you believe. But for companies the challenges are far broader. Can companies successfully integrate the requirements of ESG investors square with the company’s core business? To what extent is ESG just a marketing gimmick?
Moreover, ESG demands are not just be driven by socially conscious capital, but increasingly by younger, politically conscious, staff. In the United States in particular, businesses are competing with each other with public displays of support for the social justice movements preferred by their staff.

Yet there has also been a backlash. Some consumers have boycotted brands whose prominent ESG policies have struck the wrong note. The loss of pluralism has turned off some: businesses publicly backing controversial political causes risks turning off as many people as it attracts. Others may feel they are being railroaded into compromising either their values or their core mission delivering solid financial returns for investors.

What then should we make of ESG? A force for good, or more force than good?

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Director and Founder of the Centre for Independent Studies

Professor of Public Policy and Director, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis in the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University


Sociologist, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney.
Author of The New Authoritarianism

Director, Free Market Foundation, (Hungary)

Health Director, Health and BioSecurity, CSIRO

Director and Founder, Academy of Ideas, London, (UK)

Founder and CEO, Cognoscenti Group

Executive Director, The New Zealand Initiative (NZ)

Australian writer and columnist for the News Limited Press

Research Director, CIS

Programme Co-ordinator of the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning, The University of Western Australia

Chinese Canadian human rights advocate

Senior Research Fellow, Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society Program, CIS

CEO and Founding Director, China Matters

Former Liberal member of the Australian House of Representatives and Cabinet Minister

Pro Vice-Chancellor Arts and Academic Culture, and Professor of History, Australian Catholic University

Cancer researcher and clinical oncologist, with Genesis Care Newcastle

Founder and President, Middle East Forum, publisher Middle East Quarterly Journal, (US)

Professor of Economics, University of Melbourne

Senior Research Fellow and Director, Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society Program, CIS

Internationally acclaimed novelist and journalist, (US)

Head of Economic Research, Reserve Bank of Australia

Executive Director, CIS

Professor of Economics at Stanford University; Senior Fellow in Economics at the Hoover Institution and Chair of the Working Group on Economic Policy, (US)

UQ-CSIRO Chair in Personalised Nanodiagnostics, Professorial Research Fellow, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, University of Queensland

Diplomat, American Board of Pathology

Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure

Liberal Party Member for Berowra

Australia’s Ambassador to China from 2007 to 2011, Chairman & CEO of Geoff Raby and Associates Ltd based in Beijing

Director of China and Free Societies program, CIS

Senior Research Scholar, Marron Institute of Urban Management, New York University, (US)