The S&P 500 index devoted to highlighting companies excelling at ESG, which stands for environmental, social and governance issues, has removed Tesla from the index, it explained in a blog post published on Tuesday. The move comes in the wake of allegations of racial discrimination and poor working conditions at Tesla’s main American factory, as well as safety investigations into its technology.
Margaret Dorn, head of ESG Indices, North America at S&P Dow Jones Indices, which produces the list, said in a blog post that Tesla was held back by its lack of a low carbon strategy and codes of business conduct.
Dorn said that claims of racial discrimination and poor working conditions at Tesla’s Fremont manufacturing plant are controversial risks for Tesla. The automaker was also damaged by its handling of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into fatal crashes involving its Autopilot driver-assist technology, she said.
“While Tesla may be playing its part in taking fuel-powered cars off the road, it has fallen behind its peers when examined through a wider ESG lens,” Dorn wrote.
There were 35 companies removed this month, in the fourth annual rebalance of the index, including Home Depot, Chevron, Under Armour and Progressive, but Tesla stands out for its focus on zero-emissions transportation. There were 36 additions, including Twitter, Moderna, Marathon Oil and the Expedia Group.
The ESG acronym rose to prominence following a 2005 United National report describing the concept. The S&P ESG Index was launched in 2019.
Some investors have long taken interest in topics like the environment and the treatment of workers. The Pioneer Fund, a mutual fund founded in 1928, excluded companies involved in tobacco, alcohol and gambling.
The latest S&P 500 ESG Index features 308 companies, including some of the world’s largest companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Exxon Mobil.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has previously said he was increasingly convinced that corporate ESG is the “Devil Incarnate,” and should be “Deleted if not fixed,” lashed out at the exclusion Wednesday.
“ESG is a scam. It has been weaponized by phony social justice warriors,” Musk said. “S&P Global Ratings has lost their integrity.”
He followed up once more by tweeting an internet meme about “the leftist agenda.”
Witold Henisz, a professor who researches ESG at the Wharton School, said Exxon Mobil was likely aided by its ambition to eliminate certain types of emissions by 2050, which are called “Scope 1” and “Scope 2.” These emissions are either directly controlled by a business, or indirect emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat or cooling.
Henisz said that ESG ratings underweight emissions known as “Scope 4,” which are prevented due to a company’s actions, and which are considered a strength for Tesla. When Tesla sells an electric vehicle it prevents emissions from a gas vehicle a person may otherwise purchase.
Henisz believes investors should research for themselves what value ESG stocks bring to their portfolio.
“Don’t just buy ratings off the shelf. Don’t just look at who someone says is in or out,” Henisz said