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Bidenomics and the Boom in DEI and ESG Jobs

Young grads are finding employment helping companies not run afoul of progressive orthodoxies.

By Allysia Finley, WSJ

July 16, 2023 4:56 pm ET

How many environmental justice majors does it take to calculate the CO2 emissions of a light bulb? This isn’t a joke. Businesses now employ scads of college grads to do this.

For years America’s political class has lamented that too many college grads are working in low-paying jobs that don’t require post-secondary degrees. The diversity, equity and inclusion and environmental, social and governance industries—DEI and ESG, respectively—are solving for this problem while creating many others.

In the modern progressive era, young graduates are finding remunerative employment as sustainability coordinators, DEI officers and “people partners.” Instead of serving up pumpkin soy lattes, they’re quantifying corporate greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring employers don’t transgress progressive cultural orthodoxies.

But making a customer a cup of fancy coffee serves a useful function. The same can’t be said of most DEI and ESG jobs, which are among the fastest growing professions in the modern economy. Consider some of the more than 34,500 LinkedIn search results for “diversity and inclusion” and “sustainability” jobs in New York.

•Wells Fargo is looking for a “tech diversity, community & sustainability communications consultant” who can “collaborate and consult with stakeholders to drive . . . understanding of audience impacts to guide messaging to reduce key risk.” Translation: a progressive who can run interference with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Biden administration banking regulators.

•The National Football League is seeking a “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Senior Program Coordinator” who “will be a strategic, empathetic planner who works collaboratively to manage sensitive high-priority League and/or Club-specific initiatives and projects.” Applicants must be able to handle “highly confidential information.” Like, say, the emails of former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden?

•Deloitte has a posting for a “Tax Senior” in “Sustainability, Climate & Equity-Renewable Energy.” “The ideal candidate,” the company says, “will monitor current and proposed tax legislation and regulations related to renewable energy and sustainability, as well as implement client outreach strategies.” In other words, Deloitte is hiring consultants to help its clients pocket more green subsidies.

Since January 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in human resources and environmental consulting have increased 23.6% and 8.3%, respectively. In the first 2½ years of the Trump presidency, the fields grew only 2.7% and 4.5%. These figures don’t include the various in-house ESG and DEI jobs that companies have added.

This boom owes in part to Biden administration regulations. But the bigger drivers are progressive employees who demand that their employers indulge their politics as well as ESG police like BlackRock that order corporations to produce detailed reports about their labor and environmental practices.

According to a proposed climate disclosure rule from the Securities and Exchange Commission, an unidentified manufacturing company spends between $600,000 and $750,000 a year on producing climate and sustainability disclosures. Twenty of its employees work part-time on climate disclosures from November to March each year.

Employees at an unidentified energy firm spend 7,500 to 10,000 hours annually on climate reporting. The company pays external advisers up to $1.35 million. That’s a lot of time and money these companies could be spending on activities that actually benefit investors, workers and customers. How about United Airlines reassign its CO2 attendants to answering customer calls?

Progressives won’t admit it, but sustainability disclosures are effectively make-work projects. Shovelling out paperwork does nothing except support other similarly wasteful ESG jobs. A whole industry has grown around these disclosures.

Take the case of businesses buying carbon offsets to mitigate their emissions. This practice often entails paying loggers not to cut down trees for lumber, which allows businesses to claim they are locking up carbon in forests. To estimate the CO2 value of these offsets, companies hire “consulting foresters” to measure the girth and height of trees. Auditors then must review their calculations.

Businesses thus claim they are reducing their CO2 emissions even though they aren’t. The result is higher lumber and housing prices—and overgrown forests and out-of-control wildfires. Many trees in Canada and California that companies paid to preserve for carbon offsets have gone up in smoke during recent wildfires.

This is a good metaphor for the ESG and DEI industries. They destroy productive economic investments while creating deadweight losses across the economy.

The overgrowth in ESG and DEI jobs is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than academia. Clarkson University has a job posting for a “sustainability coordinator” for its athletics department. The job requires a master’s in environmental policy and ski-coaching certification. Apparently even ski instructors must be able to calculate carbon emissions nowadays.

These jobs may pay more than working at Starbucks, but please don’t call it gainful employment.

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