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Greenwashing, emphasis on green

14 Dec 2022 | OP ED Watch

At CDN we are not big believers in conspiracy theories. Mostly when people say and do stuff you disagree with it’s because they think stuff you disagree with. But we concede that when cornered by their own folly, and lured by advantage, humans will fib. Thus the Economist declares in apparent surprise that “Dubious green funds are rampant in America/ New research suggests Wall Street is banking on bogus claims”. If so, it wouldn’t be the first bubble driven by trendy enthusiasm, careless avarice and shady operators at the margins. But this one’s worse, because governments are bringing their fabled fiscal prudence to the table.

For starters, the Economist notes, there’s been a significant downgrading of green funds in Europe. Then it says:

“That has exposed European fund managers to accusations of greenwashing, and for some the label is deserved. But new research published this week in the Review of Finance, an academic journal, suggests American firms are doing worse. When it comes to sustainable investing, Wall Street stalwarts appear to run a fully fledged laundromat of exaggerated sales pitches and bogus claims.”

Which is a bit of a non sequitur, since the fact that American funds have similar or worse problems has no bearing on whether they were “greenwashing” or what exactly that term means. Remember that financial firms, like most elite institutions in the modern developed world, are filled with perky young adults whose often unexamined mental and sociological furnishings include a strong commitment to fighting climate change.

Like their professors and politicians, they really thought there were hugely attractive investment opportunities because renewables were more efficient than fossil fuels. They didn’t just put the Energiewende, the Green New Deal and all those shiny high-tech jobs of the future in their prospectuses. They really believed in them. And now the receding tide of illusion is exposing them financially and intellectually including the ways in which they overreached mentally and fiscally.

At this sensitive moment there’s a very real danger that governments will bring their fabled fiscal prudence to a huge parastatal sector investing in the energy of the future. Which ought to give a sane person pause given long experience with the shaky finances and performance of government-backed megaprojects especially when there’s one of those manky public-private partnerships that delivers commercial secrecy and government prudence. In Canada’s capital we’ve just had a bitter taste of the tendency of state-sponsored megaprojects to take too long, cost too much and deliver too little with our Light Rail Transit white elephant, with similar problems emerging in our largest city. Wherever you live there’s almost certainly something similar. And you ain’t seen nothing yet, apparently.

5 comments on “Greenwashing, emphasis on green”

  1. "not big believers in conspiracy theories."
    So you deny:
    A group of Muslims had a conspiracy to bring the World Trade Towers? They just randomly moved into it?
    Operation Mockingbird - conspiracy to control the media, openly revealed by CIA.
    Strategy of Tension.
    Tuskegee syphilis experiments.
    The Business Plot.
    Gulf of Tonkin incident.
    And many other openly acknowledged by the orgs that commited them and well documented conspiracies?

  2. Or, it could be that business schools do nothing to discourage sociopathic behavior exemplified by rent seeking being seen as an acceptable endeavor and morally irrelevant.

  3. CDN apparently hasn't had time to dive into the "twitter files" yet, which would explain a certain persistent nonchalance about "conspiracy theories." Or, I suppose, the evidence that the Wuhan flu resulted from a lab leak covered up by an international cabal of gain-of-function researchers. Or, I suppose, the conspiracy between the bought-and-paid-for MSM and the Liberal government to tarnish the freedom convoy.

  4. KM and Thylacine, I think it's a question of semanthics. The events you mentioned were labeled 'conspiracy theories' by people who thought differently (or had a certain conflicting agenda) even though they were soon proven to be reality. Yes, the ones you list involved genuine conspiracies (as in nefariuos resolve to commit x), for instance to take down the WTC or to hide the Wuhan lab leak. So I think the original, literal meaning of the word 'conspircy' has been jaded by the often used expression 'conspiracy theory' about things people don't like or as ad hoc explantions that fit none's view. This was in fact explained in the first line: " Mostly when people say and do stuff you disagree with it’s because they think stuff you disagree with" - i.e. no need to package it as something else aka "a conspiracy theory".

  5. @Anders Bonde. Still, when the conspiracy theory makes so much more sense than the official explanation one should go with Occams Razor and accept that unfortunately there are actually malevolent groups of people in the world that are plotting against most of humanity. They're not all simply bumbling misguided idiots. That 'theory' is too naive in my opinion.
    Not every conspiracy theory is true, but neither are most of them wrong.

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