Major financial institutions and global organizations are using a corporate scoring system to create a type of social credit system designed to influence behavior and transform society, according to a director at a conservative think tank.
Environmental, social and governance, or ESG, scores effectively grade social responsibility for entities ranging from corporations to governments. Factors like reliance on renewable energy sources or the strength of diversity policies can influence ESG scores.
"The point of it is to transform all of society, not just to transform what happens inside the walls of some big corporation," Justin Haskins, director of the Socialism Research Center and editorial director at the Heartland Institute told Fox News.
Haskins compared ESG scores to a social credit system being developed in China. The Chinese Communist Party announced a moral ranking system in 2014 that monitors individuals, government organizations and companies ranks them based on their social credit, according to the South China Morning Post.
"I don't believe that ESG scores are really being used for the reason that they say they are," Haskins told Fox News. "I think it's mostly about controlling society … and about pushing a left-wing agenda."
"They think in order to address something like climate change, in order to deal with problems related to pollution, to deal with social inequalities and racism and all this other stuff, you have to create a social credit scoring system or else these businesses are not going to do it on their own," Haskins added.
He pointed to several major organizations driving the push to expand ESG scores' influence, including the World Economic Forum and the International Business Council.
Initially, corporations paid outside firms to grade their ESG standing in order to draw socially conscious investors. But the metric has since expanded.
Merrill Lynch, in partnership with MSCI, added a new feature in 2021 that assigns customers personal ESG scores based on their investment portfolios. And a FICO analyst predicted that ESG data would be used in more "granular lending and investment decisions."
"One example would be the inclusion of property energy ratings data in mortgage valuation and decisioning, and CO2 emission data for small businesses," the analyst wrote. "Over the longer term, we expect that ESG and climate risk evaluations will become an integral element of credit risk and affordability assessments."
Haskins believes ESG scores will soon apply to individuals.
"If you want to transform society through a social credit scoring system, you can do a lot of that through corporations and banks and financial institutions and Wall Street, but at some point, you probably are going to have to apply that to individuals as well," Haskins told Fox News.
"The average American has no power to force these companies to stop doing this," Haskins added. "You're going to be impacted by it whether you like it or not, and the rules could change at any time."
He also said grading companies' ESG standards "is an essential part of something they call stakeholder capitalism."
"They believe that we need to move to a new kind of capitalism, one that doesn't just look at profits and losses and traditional business metrics, but that looks at what's in the best interests of the collective," Haskins said.
World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab wrote in 2019 that ESG scores are necessary for stakeholder capitalism.
"‘Stakeholder capitalism,’ a model I first proposed a half-century ago, positions private corporations as trustees of society, and is clearly the best response to today’s social and environmental challenges," he wrote. "We should seize this moment to ensure that stakeholder capitalism remains the new dominant model."
Haskins also pointed to major ESG proponents doing business with China.
"The same people who are supposedly using these ESG scores to make sure that they're only doing business with the moral companies, are also doing business with very immoral people like the government of China," he told Fox News.
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager and a major advocate for ESG scoring, has significant stake in China. In 2021, for example, it became the first wholly owned mutual fund business in the country, pushing billions of dollars into the world's second-largest economy, according to Reuters.