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Thursday, Jun 13, 2024

OC Leader Board: Neuromined – Liberty-Minded Tech

Editor’s Note: Robert E. Grant founded Newport Beach-based Strathspey Crown LLC, which has a portfolio of 17 companies, which includes Evolus Inc. (Nasdaq: EOLS) and Aeon BioPharma Inc. (NYSE: AEON) (see page 8 for more).

In May, the Business Journal included Grant in its annual OC50 listing, which this year highlighted those shaping the future of healthcare in Orange County. He and best-selling co-author Michael Ashley on July 25 published “Neuromined,” a book “to wake people up to centralized tyranny and to ignite an emergent movement toward liberty-minded tech.”

Free speech is critical to the greatness of the American experience. It allows for dissent. It protects the right to practice religion as we see fit. It also safeguards appropriate public demonstration.

Yet these days, freedom’s under attack in subtle ways such as data harvesting that can throttle down opinions or programs that initially sound good for society.
Take the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) movement, where investment funds under management in the U.S. total nearly $360 billion as of 2021, according to SustainFi.

That’s a breathtaking sum of money…

Put simply, ESG is a rating that companies receive. It grades them on their ESG compliance. “Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores—a social credit framework for sustainability reporting—are being used as the primary mechanism to achieve the shift to a stakeholder model,” explained the think tank Heartland.

“They measure both financial and non-financial impacts of investments and companies and serve to formally institutionalize corporate social responsibility in global economic infrastructure.”

What’s wrong with that?

Isn’t it a good thing that businesses are finally graded on their activities? Won’t this lead to less pollution and more benevolent corporate cultures? Maybe. Or maybe ESG is a cleverly engineered carrot-and-stick tactic to control companies—not unlike how China’s social credit system controls people.

Elon Musk and ESG

At least that’s the conclusion Elon Musk reached. On April 2, 2022, he tweeted, “I am increasingly convinced that corporate ESG is the Devil Incarnate.”

Now why might the richest man in the world say this? When Kim Iversen was cohost of the Hill’s news program Rising, she illustrated ESG’s hollowness by showing how centralized gatekeepers are the ones who get to decide the scores of companies, a power with profound implications.

She brought up Tesla, which according to letter “E”, should receive a high grade for its commitment to the environment, right? Wrong. “Tesla…has a moderate to a moderately poor score,” Iversen said.

How can this be?

The answer is simple. Tesla’s low ESG score is not based so much on the automaker’s commitment to clean energy. It’s due to the disapproval of the powers-that-be of CEO Musk:

“The scoring system takes into account his eclectic personality, his tendency to tweet whatever he wants, his views on COVID, and his libertarian politics,” said Iversen.

Interesting sidenote: Tesla’s score even trailed gas-guzzling companies like Ford. It gets more preposterous.

As Iversen reported, the weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin, known for producing bombs and missiles to rain death from the skies, also has a better social score than Tesla.

“Why is that? . . . It’s because ESG scores are based on what neoliberal elites consider to be moral and good,” said Iversen.

Also, in case you were wondering which company reigns at the apex of the ESG scheme? It’s Bill Gates’s Microsoft Corp.. We’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Victoria’s Secret Male Model

Armed with this background, why is Victoria’s Secret, a company known for women’s lingerie, suddenly promoting a male model to represent it?

“The move is part of the underwear giant’s efforts to rehabilitate its brand, long accused of promoting unattainable beauty standards that cater to the male gaze and that negatively affect young people’s self-esteem,” explained Tiffany Ap for Quartz, a publication focused on the new global economy.

“It’s nixed its famous televised fashion show and diversified its model line-up.”

We might say it’s a vastly different brand approach, one driven not so much by appealing to what used to bring men and women to Victoria’s Secret stores—lingerie—but rather a cynical effort to virtue signal.

Don’t believe us? In 2021, the company produced its first ESG report. CEO Martin Waters accompanied the announcement with a not-so-subtle message for those in the know.

“We have launched the next stage of this mission by organizing our efforts around an intentional environmental, social and governance (ESG) structure and starting the very necessary work of embedding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into all facets of our business. We refer to this journey as Consciously Designing Positive Change.”

In the same announcement, Waters describes how his newly rebranded organization is complying with the kinds of virtue signaling so necessary to achieve that coveted ESG score.

For example, the company:

  •  Established a new board of directors of which 86% were women and 43% were racially diverse.
  • Hired a chief diversity officer and built a DEI strategy.
  • Committed to continuously reviewing its compensation practices to provide equal pay for equal work for employees across all gender identities and races.
  • Regularly assessed its suppliers’ compliance with its environmental policies, including chemical use and wastewater management.
  • Increased its use of preferred fibers, including recycled polyester and recycled polyamide, and promised to set specific sustainable product goals in 2022. Whatever happened to making lingerie that people like?

Modern Salem Mobs

The idea that corporations must now go to such lengths to play the game for social acceptance may feel unprecedented and frightening, but it’s not so novel.

In the 1950s, American playwright Arthur Miller penned “The Crucible.” Ostensibly, it’s a retelling of the Salem Witch Trials in which a small New England town became swept up in moral panic, leading citizens to try and execute innocent people for the crime of “witchcraft.”

Really, it was an allegory about how hive-mind groupthink can poison communities. Back then, Miller was commenting on his fears concerning McCarthyism, but his message is still just as apt. All these years later, the threat of mob rule is alive and well.

The difference? Now it’s abetted by centralized tyranny involving the richest, most powerful companies on earth. And if we are not careful, we may soon find ourselves at the mercy of this mob, not just for our livelihoods but for our very way of life.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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