Catalytic Communicators Can Stop ESG and DEI Attacks

Tynesia Boyea
3 min readMay 29, 2024


Those looking to stop the momentum of ESG and DEI have lost in the court of public opinion. Over half of adults support business involvement in ESG initiatives and about the same number similarly support involvement in DEI initiatives. Nearly two-in-three adults agree that ESG investments should be made easier, a response that cuts across partisan identities.

Because they cannot win in the hearts and minds of the general public, “anti-woke” activists are trying a different tactic: legal threats. I’ve written before about how, now that the Supreme Court outlawed the use of race in the college selection process, the anti-DEI and anti-ESG activists are throwing whatever they can at the legal system to try and stop companies from leveraging tools to do well BY doing good.

Fortunately, these attacks have little to no legal grounding. One of the main attacks is about whether or not ESG investors are fulfilling their “fiduciary duty” in making investments that support financial as well as environmental and social returns. They claim that any considerations beyond return-maximization is illegal, as investors are not being good stewards of their funds.

This idea that ESG investments have lower returns than “regular” investments is just blatantly untrue. Research has shown that ESG investments perform just as well, if not better, than traditional investments.

Another main attack on ESG and DEI is that investors or companies using these strategies are participating in “antitrust” violations. One argument states that if investors organize together to deploy capital and address past wrongs, they will prevent competition within the marketplace. For example, if an investment firm or set of investment firms collaborate to ensure capital lands in the hands of underrepresented groups like women, that violates antitrust principles and limits competition.

Investors have been collaborating to build markets for about as long as we’ve had a robust capitalist system. The 30-year fixed mortgage required a massive amount of collaboration between the government and banks to create a product that was accessible to the middle class. Foundations and investors leveraged government incentives to create the affordable housing market, which would not have been created without intentional, collaborative investment strategies.

Investments that create markets are often referred to as “catalytic capital.” In addition to catalytic capital, we also need “catalytic communicators” to push back against those leading the coordinated movement against ESG and DEI. These actors want ESG and DEI to seem political, rather than the common sense business strategies that they are.

Catalytic communicators need to refute arguments and push back against the falsehoods being shared by bad-faith actors. During previous moments in our history, philanthropy was leading the way, such as the Ford Foundation during the Civil Rights Era or the Open Society Foundations with the anti-apartheid movement.

Many philanthropies are funding important work focused on ESG and DEI. These philanthropic organizations have countless leaders in the space, yet few are communicating in the ways we need to push back against the messages and attacks coming from the otherside. Corporate leaders like Jamie Dimon have been more vocal than the average foundation that cares about racial justice or an equitable economy.

Don’t get me wrong — we need corporations to be out in front defending ESG and DEI. That said, foundations often have missions that support bold action and have a unique opportunity to provide cover for those who are having challenges navigating the current environment. This is especially true for the smaller and more vulnerable businesses that have more to lose from misguided public policies that prevent equitable solutions to an unequal economy.

Philanthropy can play the role of catalytic communicator, raising both the benefits of and counter-arguments for ESG and DEI, effectively backstopping support for the companies, investors and small businesses that are attacked for ESG and DEI policies.

We have already won the battle in hearts and minds. We can win in the courts as well. We just need more people speaking up and speaking out on what’s possible when we change how the world does business.



Tynesia Boyea

People grower, resource magnet, and translator committed to values-driven entrepreneurship. Read more at