By Nick Hedley
The Florida Retirement System, which has assets worth $186.2
billion, will soon no longer be allowed to consider climate risk and other environmental,
social and governance (ESG) factors when making investment decisions.
On August 23, the trustees of the State Board of Administration
passed a resolution to amend the system’s investment policy statement and proxy
voting policies. The board’s members are Governor Ron DeSantis, Chief Financial
Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Ashley Moody.
The system’s investment policy statement will be updated to
require that all investment decisions are based on maximizing financial
outcomes. In proxy voting, investment managers will be required to focus purely
on investment return considerations.
The State Board of Administration will also prepare a report
on the policies around voting practices and will submit its report to the
trustees by December 15, 2023.
While discussing the resolution, DeSantis said it was aimed
at ensuring that pension fund members were no longer “roadkill in somebody’s
The state would seek statutory codification of the
requirements that the pension system disregard ESG factors, and Florida would
seek to join forces with other states “to be a counterweight to ESG.”
Lamar Taylor, interim executive director and chief
investment officer of the State Board of Administration, said ESG investing was
a growing trend due to regulatory changes and the increased adoption of passive
investment strategies, which had steered capital towards the likes of
There was now an incentive for investment managers to prioritize
the achievement of “ideological objectives” rather than financial objectives,
It was therefore important for the board to ensure that financial returns were never “subordinated to the political, social and ideological objectives of others,” Taylor said.
As of end-June, the State Board of Administration's total exposure to oil and gas assets is $6.8 billion.
Patronis, meanwhile, said ESG is "un-American because global asset managers are using the woke standards to reengineer society through billion-dollar industries."
He singled out the insurance industry, saying that because insurers are increasingly considering climate and other risks in their policies, “a lot of woke businesses will get better insurance products, while others who ignore ESG criteria may not get any coverage."
"Meanwhile, as certain insurance companies have joined the cult of ESG, Florida is experiencing a hardening insurance market. If insurance companies are charging a premium for ESG, then we need to know about it. We know that asset managers are telling insurers to focus more on climate change, or they’ll lose money, or be sued. Or both."