Why ESG should be GSESep 03, 2023
The fundamental error of ESG
The singer-songwriter penned a whole song about the natural world from the stars to the seas, the seasons, the depths, the mountains and ravines, wildlife, and birdlife. He then progresses to trade and commerce and travel before returning to the animal kingdom:
“You come, and they gather around;
You open your hand and they eat from it.” Psalm 104
I commend those who care for the earth, worry about pollution of air and oceans, and reflect deeply on the sustainability of our planet. This is not just good concern on their part, but an underlining of the original mandate of mankind, namely, to care for creation for God’s enjoyment. Some focus on CO2 emissions, others on plastics being exported to poor nations and then finding their way into rivers and oceans. Still others are concerned about corporate greed and the trampling of plants, animals and humans in pursuit of profits. Unbridled greed rightly angers many, so governance is a hot topic. But in our pursuit of noble goals have we got ESG wrong? Have we violated a basic principle? (If so, let’s own up to it and fix our thinking because great aspirations aren’t achieved on faulty foundations.)
The psalmist of old looked at creation—the sun, clouds, oceans, rivers, animals, birds, sea life and humans—and said, “O Lord, my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.” Many stanzas of his song go on to celebrate what he sees of God in the natural world around him. Then he gets to a crucial principle: God is in the center of things, the Spirit sustains creation, and the Environment prospers from his care.
“You come, and they gather around;
You open your hand and they eat from it.
If you turned your back,
they’d die in a minute.
Take back your Spirit and they die,
Revert to original mud;
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life—
The whole countryside in bloom and blossom.”
In a biblical view of planet care, God is at the center, the Spirit sustains, and the Ecology, Environment and Ecosystem of the planet is the beneficiary. This is God-Spirit-Ecosystem, or GSE.
We get into trouble when we place anything else at the center of our lives and when we let anything else play god. Government plays god and we get Statism, Healthcare plays god and we get Determinism, Family plays god and we get Tribalism, Education wants to be a god and we get Elitism, Media says it is the center of society and we get Humanism. Capital proclaims itself king and we serve greed deified (Mammon), Religion places itself at the center and Cultism is the result. NGOs say they serve the greatest good but end up wanting all to serve them and their cause. Business takes center stage and Pragmatism justifies nefarious behavior. Law plays god and we get judges ruling from the bench and spreading Legalism rather than serving the people.
Whenever we place anything at the center instead of God—including the environment—we violate a foundational principle of life. Jesus simplified this for us: “Work first for God's kingdom and what he calls good. Then you will have all these things also.” And when Jesus was asked about the greatest command from God he said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the first and great commandment. And there is a second like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.”
When we love God first—the G in GSE—and we acknowledge him as the center and his Spirit as the sustainer (S), then we will self-govern (ourselves and our organizations) and do for everyone else what we want for ourselves. The whole Earth, Ecosystem, and Environment will benefit. Without God first and a dependence on the Spirit, human solutions to the challenges of this world will implode. GSE is sustainable because it aligns with truth; ESG is not sustainable because it makes a god of things that are not God.
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