Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks said Saturday that corporate sustainability standards, known as ESG, are part of “Satan’s plan.”
Oaks, speaking to the Salt Lake County Republican Party Convention, said programs like ESG and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were laudable pursuits — like ending world hunger and poverty — but were part of “outcomes-based systems” designed to reach a pre-determined conclusion.
“The goals have been identified. The truth has already been defined that these are the problems, and here are the solutions. The debate is over,” Oaks said.
Oaks then veered into the biblical “war in Heaven” from the Book of Revelation, calling it another “outcomes-based” effort.
“Outcomes-based governance like the U.N.’s SDGs and ESG opens the door to authoritarianism. It is Satan’s plan,” Oaks told the GOP delegates.
ESG is a framework used by companies to evaluate their approach to issues like the use of green energy, air and water pollution, diversity in hiring and gender equality. Last year, Oaks pulled about $100 million in state funds from the Blackrock investment firm because of their use of ESG in evaluating investments.
When asked for clarification about his remarks, a spokesperson for Oaks said the issues raised by ESG are important and should be debated.
“Treasurer Oaks said his use of scripture was an attempt to speak to an audience that might understand the example and illustrate the problem with systems that attempt to push outcomes on everyone. His opposition is to coercion as a mechanism in society,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Later in his talk, Oaks referenced an article from 2020 that warned of China’s growing influence on the United Nations.
“The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) played a critical role in creating the U.N.’s Agenda 2030 sustainable development goals, which have widely been touted by U.N. leaders as the master plan for humanity,” Oaks said.
That article, and several others provided to The Salt Lake Tribune by Oaks’ office to bolster his arguments, came from The Epoch Times website. NewsGuard, which tracks misinformation and rates the credibility of news and information websites, says articles published on The Epoch Times have “frequently included distorted, misleading, or unsubstantiated claims,” and the website “fails to meet several basic standards of credibility and transparency.” The Epoch Times and New Teng Dynasty (NTD) Television are affiliated with the Falun Gong religious movement that is outlawed in China.
Oaks, a former investment banker, was appointed in July 2021 after former Treasurer David Damschen resigned. Gov. Spencer Cox selected Oaks over two other candidates nominated by the Utah Republican Party’s Central Committee as potential replacements. Oaks was officially elected to fill out the remaining two years of Damschen’s term last year.
On Saturday, Oaks wasn’t the only top elected official connecting religion to policymaking.
During her speech to delegates, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson ran through a series of accomplishments from the just-completed 2023 Utah Legislature, which included tax cuts and the successful passage of school choice legislation.
When the subject of water policy came up, Henderson touted state investments in conservation efforts and optimization of agricultural water use.
Henderson then took a victory lap of sorts, crediting Gov. Cox’s call for Utahns to pray for rain for the abundant moisture the state is experiencing this year.
“A couple of years ago, Governor Cox got soundly mocked by left-leaning liberal media for asking Utahns to come together in faith and prayer, no matter what their denomination or faith was, to pray for precipitation,” Henderson said.
“We’ve got a lot more to do, and there’s a lot more water that we need, but we are experiencing some potentially record-setting precipitation levels this winter. Thank you for your prayers, and I want to say thank you for sticking it to the liberal pundits,” Henderson told delegates.
In June of 2021, Cox called for a “weekend of prayer,” asking Utahns of all faiths to pray for rain to help rescue the state from the grip of a multi-year drought. Cox’s call for prayer as drought relief was ridiculed by several prominent media figures, including comedian John Oliver on his “Last Week Tonight” HBO program.
Henderson also reportedly delivered some version of her comments at Republican Party events in Weber and Cache Counties on Saturday.
It wasn’t only an almighty’s influence over state policy on display Saturday at Cottonwood High School.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis edged out Donald Trump in an informal straw poll of GOP delegates about who they want as the party’s presidential nominee in 2024. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley finished a distant third, followed by former Vice President Mike Pence, former member of Congress Liz Cheney and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.