American Express goes woke, promotes left's priorities on climate, race, border

Credit card company is increasingly embracing ESG, an investing movement that seeks to engineer social transformation through corporate governance and capital flows.

Updated: August 21, 2022 - 11:17pm

American Express is increasingly embracing an investing movement that pressures companies to adopt left-wing political causes, building on a recent history of the credit card giant promoting woke ideas rebuked by critics as divisive.

This progressive push has led American Express, a multinational corporation specializing in payment card services, to prioritize so-called "social justice" initiatives and efforts to combat climate change as central pillars of the company's future as it also donates to advocacy groups supportive of illegal immigration.

These priorities are evident in a new company report titled "The Powerful Backing of American Express: 2021-2022 Environmental, Social, and Governance Report."

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing is based on the concept that investors should use these three broad categories when evaluating where to put their money, prioritizing progressive values and "social responsibility" when making financial decisions.

The theory underpinning ESG is that corporations should deemphasize their traditional responsibility to maximize value for shareholders and instead make new commitments to alternative stakeholder groups, serving other interests and society at large.

Many investors now use ESG as a rating system to measure a company's advancement of policies designed to address climate change, increase corporate board diversity, and support a progressive "social justice" agenda, among other initiatives.

American Express has publicly championed ESG and touts that support to investors in its new report on corporate social responsibility.

"At American Express, our ESG mission is to back people and businesses to thrive and create equitable, resilient, and sustainable communities globally," the report states. "We seek to mobilize our business to address pressing global challenges and deliver high impact initiatives to serve our colleagues, customers, and communities."

In May, American Express issued its inaugural $1 billion "ESG Bond" to finance a range of "green and social projects" as part of the company's ESG strategy.

The report lays out key pillars of this strategy, including allocating some $4 billion from late 2020 through 2025 on the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion not only within the company but also throughout society.

Among American Express' strategic objectives, according to the report, are to "enhance diverse representation, equal opportunity, and an inclusive culture at all levels of the company" and to "advance racial equality and social justice in our communities."

Some of the related goals listed include "100% pay equity across genders globally and across races and ethnicities in the U.S." and providing tens of millions of dollars in grants to nonprofits focused on addressing inequality and promoting social justice.

The report also calls for investing $500 million from 2021 through 2025 "to build more resilient and equitable communities" and frequently mentions efforts to support "underrepresented" groups both within American Express and in the broader society, touting the diverse demographic makeup of its workforce, senior executives, and board of directors.

Another pillar of American Express' strategy is combating climate change, an integral part of the broader ESG movement.

"We are focused on advancing solutions that address the climate crisis by minimizing our carbon footprint and helping our customers and communities do the same," American Express Chairman and CEO Stephen Squeri says in the report's opening message.

The report goes on to describe how the company believes it has a "role to play in supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy" and will "support community programs and initiatives
to help build more climate-resilient and equitable communities."

Specifically, American Express last year committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2035 and plans to provide at least $10 million to support initiatives that address "the adverse effects of climate change and pollution on communities" from 2021 through 2025.

President Biden has said he seeks a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and a net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050.

ESG advocates seek to radically reduce carbon emissions and invest in renewable energy, hoping ultimately to eliminate fossil fuels. Just the News has previously reported how pressure from the ESG investing movement has led to a decline in capital for the oil and gas industry.

This process has accelerated as ESG has become increasingly influential in recent years, now enjoying prominence as one of the most popular trends in finance. Indeed, ESG has evolved into a $35 trillion industry, with that much in global assets being invested using ESG principles.

By 2025, global ESG assets are expected to exceed $53 trillion, representing more than one-third of the $140.5 trillion in projected total assets under management.

According to critics, however, the goal of ESG is not to make smart investments but rather to control the flow of capital in order to impose a political agenda.

"ESG is a score that measures compliance with a political agenda masquerading as an investment strategy," Utah Treasurer Marlo Oaks recently told Just the News. "It's like a trojan horse of progressivism that is detrimental to our freedoms."

ESG also "drives capital away from those who don't comply with that agenda," added Oaks. "This is coercive, using the power of money and the coercion of capital to drive politics."

According to critics, environmentalists are now targeting the oil and gas industry through ESG because they lack sufficient support in Congress and state legislatures to pass sweeping green energy measures through the normal political process.

Perhaps this apparent effort to bypass the legislature is why the American Express Foundation, the corporation's philanthropic arm, has given money to progressive immigration groups that oppose cracking down on illegal immigration.

"In 2022, we announced new grant priorities that build on our legacy of community giving and directly support our ESG strategy roadmap launched in 2021," the report states. Going forward, the American Express Foundation will direct its resources to three core priorities."

Those three priorities are "backing equal futures," "backing low-carbon communities," and "backing small," which is described as supporting "underrepresented and economically vulnerable" entrepreneurs and small businesses.

The report notes this effort would "align our community giving priorities to our ESG strategy."

Evidently, immigration fits somewhere in this picture.

Indeed, according to the American Express Foundation's form 990 IRS filings for 2020, the foundation gave financial contributions to the American Immigration Council , the National Immigration Law Center, and Immigration Equality — three groups that support lax enforcement at the U.S. southern border and providing greater services to illegal immigrants.

The American Immigration Council, for example, is a leading advocate for so-called sanctuary cities, where local police refuse to follow federal laws that require turning over illegal immigrants.

The National Immigration Law Center, meanwhile, supports providing illegal immigrants with welfare benefits and other subsidies funded by taxpayers such as in-state tuition. Earlier this month, the group signed onto an amicus brief opposing "race-blind" college admissions, arguing it would hurt immigrants of color.

Immigration Equality advocates on behalf of LGBTQ asylum seekers who face persecution in their home countries. The group has vocally opposed efforts to send illegal immigrants back to Mexico and argued the U.S. should provide resources to house and feed them on American soil as they await their immigration court dates.

The Austin Journal first reported the American Express Foundation's donations to these three immigration groups.

It's unclear why a credit card company would give money to such organizations.

Under Squeri's leadership, however, American Express has come under fire for adopting a range of so-called woke causes before its latest ESG report.

American Express' ESG report from last year, for example, touted how the company "encouraged colleagues in major office locations to self-identify across gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability depending on their location."

Also last year, Manhattan Institute fellow and investigative reporter Christopher Rufo reported American Express executives had employees go through an "anti-racism" training program based on the tenets of critical race theory, which argues racism is entrenched in all systems of American society and all disparities between the races indicate racial discrimination.

As part of the program, employees had to map their "race, sexual orientation, body type, religion, disability status, age, gender identity [and] citizenship" onto an official company worksheet and then determine whether they had "privilege" or were members of a "marginalized group."

In another "anti-racism" event, Rufo reported, great-grandson of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad gave a lecture to American Express personnel in which he argued capitalism was founded on racism.

"American Express has to do its own digging about how it sits in relationship to this history of racial capitalism," Khalil Muhammad reportedly said. "You are complicit in giving privileges in one community against the other, under the pretext that we live in a meritocratic system where the market judges everyone the same."

Other American Express courses instruct staff on "microaggressions" and encourage support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

According to Gregory Angelo, president of the New Tolerance Campaign, documents show American Express tied 15% of executive bonuses to a "colleague" metric of "talent retention and diversity representation," apparently incentivizing managers to hire and retain employees based in part on their sex, race, and other demographic information.

Rufo and other critics have teamed up to launch the UnAmerican Express campaign to stop what they describe as American Express' "racially divisive policies" and encourage investors to separate themselves from the company until the campaign achieves its goals.

American Express didn't respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.