Beautiful agricultural landscape of a traditional farmstead with cotton ( Gossypium hirsutum) fields in the foreground.

NC businesses see benefits of ‘ESG’

Businesses large and small are doubling down on their commitment to more sustainable practices, even as lawmakers in North Carolina and other states voice their opposition to Environmental, Social and Governance practices for investments.

North Carolina businesses like TS Designs have decided it is smarter to be at the forefront of the movement, emphasizing transparency and accountability in their supply chains.

Eric Henry, president of TS Designs, said his company has adapted its business model over the years, particularly in response to the challenges of globalization and the negative environmental effects associated with it.

“We decided there’s something wrong with that model, when you go outside of your market for product or service, your market delivers,” Henry explained. “We grow cotton in North Carolina. So, what we decided to do is just focus on the resources within our community, the state.”

The company produces what’s known as “Cotton of the Carolinas,” a T-shirt made from locally sourced cotton, with a supply chain spanning 700 miles. QR codes on the clothing labels allow people to trace the origins of the materials and the journey of their garment through the supply chain. Henry believes a focus on local farmers puts the planet and people first.

Last summer, North Carolina passed a bill to block state organizations from considering ESG factors in investments and employment decisions. Backers of the bill considered ESG as more of a social issue and argued investments should be made based on the highest financial gains.

Henry countered the term is not a “buzzword,” it is a critical business strategy.

“There’s 8 billion people on this planet and we need to have as much information to make the best decisions possible,” Henry contended. “I don’t want to be living in a vacuum. I want as much information as possible. So ESG is very important, how we run our business, how we treat our employees, how we treat the planet. We just have a responsibility.”

According to the advisory firm Pleiades Strategy, more than 300 pieces of anti-ESG legislation were introduced in 38 states in the past few years, with 17 of those states signing bills into law.