DEI and ESG are acronyms bandied around quite a lot lately, and not in the most positive light.

The Wall Street Journal Jan. 9 called ESG the latest dirty word in corporate America, claiming many companies shy away from the term due to investor and political pressure as well as legal threats.

In the aftermath of Harvard University’s President Claudine Gay stepping down, hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman went on record saying the school’s DEI ideology is anti-capitalist.

And Politico reported Jan. 17 that long-shot Democrat challenger to President Joe Biden, Dean Phillips, removed specific language about diversity, equity and inclusion from his campaign’s website after a $1 million donation from Ackman to the We Deserve Better super PAC supporting Phillips.

With the intensity surrounding this year’s presidential election, there’s no doubt DEI and ESG will be under ever increasing scrutiny.

LaTricia Woods and Ben Finzel, co-founders of The Change Agencies, a national network of independently owned PR firms focused on the LGBTQ+ and multicultural communities, addressed the coordinated attack on topics that relate to fairness and equality and the environment during a Jan. 8 webinar hosted by O’Dwyer’s and moderated by Researchcape’s Jeffrey Henning.

Finzel pointed out those who are against ESG are also the ones going after DEI programs with a mindset that these programs are somehow favoring certain groups at the expense of others.

“There’s only so much to go around, and so if you get some, that means I lose something, right?” is the false conclusion Finzel sees echoed among naysayers.

Corporate engagement on the environment is portrayed as somehow a sign of weakness, Finzel continued.

Woods pointed out the trend of companies staying quiet on sustainability goals or “green-hushing” for fear of negative appraisal.

There’s a synergy between the concepts of DEI and ESG because both focus on creating sustainability and success for organizations, Woods believes.

During The World Economic Forum’s Jan. 15-19 meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Open For Business released its report ( showing a direct correlation between LGBTQ+ inclusion and ESG strategies with higher profit margins and improved corporate reputation.

At the core of DEI and ESG initiatives is a sense of fairness which aligns with American values of liberty, democracy and equality, according to Finzel.

“We need to go on offense and start explaining what opposing DEI and ESG efforts means,” Finzel said.

View this full discussion and other webinars moderated by Researchscape on O’Dwyer’s YouTube page.

Contact John O'Dwyer at [email protected] if you'd like to suggest a topic, be a panelist or are interested in sponsoring a webinar.