The Freedom Center, in collaboration with the National Review Institute present “ESG Now and in the Future: Is There Common Ground?”. This debate features distinguished national experts hailing from various fields such as corporate, investment, regulatory, and government sectors that will delve into the multifaceted nature of ESG, presenting arguments in favor of and in opposition to it and exploring the possibility of finding common ground.


Ari Fleischer

Ari Fleischer

Former White House press secretary and primary spokesperson for President George W. Bush

Robert Gibbs

Robert Gibbs

Former White House press secretary and advisor to President Barack Obama


Andrew Behar

Andrew Behar

CEO, As You Sow

America’s leading non-profit practitioner of shareholder advocacy and engagement

Kevin Hassett

Dr. Kevin Hassett

Senior Adviser, National Review Capital Matters

29th Chairman, President’s Council of Economic Advisers

Sandra E Taylor

Sandra E. Taylor

Former SVP of Corporate Responsibility at Starbucks

Founder and CEO, Sustainable Business International

Kimberly Yee

Kimberly Yee

State Treasurer of Arizona

About ESG

ESG initiatives, embraced by corporations and investors alike, encompass a wide array of concerns, ranging from climate change to gender and racial equality, workplace diversity, and other critical social and political matters. The objective of ESG is to shape how companies account for and disclose their environmental impact, address social challenges, and make decisions that have both immediate and long-term consequences. Currently, the future of ESG is the subject of intense discussions, legislative endeavors, legal actions, and regulations on local, state, national, and global scales. These endeavors focus on pivotal inquiries, such as measuring the impact of ESG-related decisions, assessing the legitimacy of these choices, aligning ESG initiatives with managers’ fiduciary responsibilities and broader societal objectives, and considering the implications of these initiatives for freedom of speech.

At the same, while informed by cutting-edge research, the ESG debate aims to delve into the real-life implications of these issues. A March 2023 article in The Free Press quotes Cindy Williams, formerly a Veterans Administration lawyer, now working for a private hospital. She has concerns about how ESG will affect her federal pension and 401(k).

“I have no objection to saving the planet,” said Williams, who is 62 and lives with her mother in a retirement community. “I just don’t want to lose my money. They’re more concerned about their idea of improving the world than they are with whether it actually improves my life.”

About the Moderators

Ari Fleischer is a former White House press secretary and was the primary spokesperson for President George W. Bush. He delivered the daily White House press briefings from 2001 to 2003. In his almost four years working for President Bush, Ari served as spokesperson during the historic presidential recount, September 11th, two wars, and the anthrax attack. Ari is also an author of two best-selling books. His latest book, Suppression, Deception, Snobbery and Bias, takes a deep dive into how and why the press keep getting so much wrong. His first book, Taking Heat, details his years in the White House and reached #7 on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

Robert Gibbs is a former White House press secretary and was a top advisor to President Barack Obama for nearly a decade. He started as Communications Director for then-Senator Obama and was a key strategist when President Obama won the 2008 election. Gibbs crafted effective communications to address the financial crisis and pass the historic Affordable Care Act. He left the Administration to become Executive Vice President for Corporate Relations and Global Chief Communications Officer for McDonald’s. In 2013, Gibbs co-founded the Incite Agency, which is now a part of Bully Pulpit International (BPI), of which he remains a partner.

About the Participants

Andrew Behar is CEO of As You Sow, the nation’s leading non-profit practitioner of shareholder advocacy and engagement. With a 30-year track record of success, As You Sow advances values-aligned investing and uses shareholder power to compel companies to reduce material risk on issues including climate change; toxins in the food system; ocean plastics; diversity, equity, and inclusion; racial justice; and wage equity. Previously Andrew was a documentary filmmaker and entrepreneur founding start-ups that developed innovative physiological monitoring devices and grid-scale fuel cells. He is an inventor on five patents and was recently named as one of the Purposeful-50 “true changemakers who deliver on social justice, environmental protection, diversity, inclusion, racial equality, and gender and pay equity.” He is currently on the board of the Responsible Sourcing Network. His book, The Shareholders Action Guide: Unleash Your Hidden Powers to Hold Corporations Accountable, was published by Berrett-Koehler.

Andrew’s book outlines how people can utilize their investments to shift corporate behavior. “More than 91 million Americans own shares of stock or are invested in mutual funds, and the vast majority of them abdicate their power to hold corporations accountable. The fact is, every public corporation holds an annual meeting, and every shareholder has the right to vote on a slew of resolutions on issues that directly impact their lives and the futures of their families: a living wage, deforestation, climate change, animal rights, plastics polluting our oceans, CEO Pay, toxic chemicals in our products and foods, GMOs, fracking, human trafficking and slavery, and the list goes on.”

Dr. Kevin Hassett served as the 29th Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2017 through 2019. He was thereafter called back to the White House in 2020 to serve as a Senior Advisor to President Trump, where he coordinated the economic response to the pandemic. Dr. Hassett has been involved in national politics for over twenty years. He served as John McCain’s chief economic adviser in the 2000 presidential primaries and a senior economic adviser to the campaigns of George W. Bush in 2004, McCain again in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Dr. Hassett is currently Managing Director at the Milken Institute and the Brent R. Nicklas Distinguished Fellow in Economics at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Hassett is also senior advisor of Capital Matters, the economic web site of National Review. Prior to his White House service, Hassett was Research Director at the American Enterprise Institute. He also served as a senior economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. His academic background includes being an associate professor of economics and finance at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, as well as a visiting professor at New York University’s Law School. He has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and B.A. with high honors from Swarthmore College

“American corporations that place profits over politics have a proven record of providing the greatest economic benefit to society and the greatest individual financial reward. As citizens, we hope that corporate leaders appreciate the important political role they have historically played in defending free enterprise. We believe they will, but if they don’t, then retirees will see their investment evaporate, and the workers of America will be united, but in poverty.”

Sandra E. Taylor is the former SVP of Corporate Responsibility at Starbucks and CEO of Sustainable Business International, a consulting business she launched in 2008 that assists organizations at various stages of environmental sustainability and social responsibility practice. Taylor’s expertise provides innovative approaches to sustainability strategy, including supply chain sustainability, strategic philanthropy, stakeholder engagement, ESG analysis, and social investments.

During her tenure at Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle, Washington (2003 – 2008), Sandra led the strategic development and day-to-day direction of all global corporate responsibility programs, including the development of responsible, ethical, and sustainable standards for coffee, tea, cocoa supply chains; reduction of the environmental impact of business operations;  community affairs; the Starbucks Foundation and disaster relief support. 

Taylor has been an Expert-in-Residence at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, a First Mover Fellow in Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program, and was the Falk Professor of Socially Responsible Business at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. She has been a corporate board director of Capella Education Company, DE Master Blenders in the Netherlands, and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, all publicly traded. Her nonprofit board service includes the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Island Press in Washington DC and LIVE Certified in the Pacific Northwest. Taylor has a BA in French from Colorado Women’s College, a Juris Doctorate from Boston University School of Law, and a master’s in business administration (MBA) from the Bordeaux School of Management in France. 

Her book,  The Business of Sustainable Wine: How to Build Brand Equity in a 21 Century Wine Industry, was published in 2017.

Kimberly Yee is the State Treasurer of Arizona. She is Arizona’s chief banking and investment officer and oversees the cash management of Arizona’s $64.7 billion state budget and payments to agencies, local governments, and schools. Upon taking office in January 2019, assets under management were at $15.4 billion. Today, assets under management stand at over $30 billion, an increase of 95.5% in 52 months. Born and raised in Arizona, Treasurer Yee is the first Asian American elected to a statewide office in Arizona’s history. She is also the first Chinese American Republican woman to win a major statewide office in the history of the United States. In 2010, she became the first Asian American woman elected to the Arizona Legislature and served for eight years, both in the House and the Senate. Treasurer Yee is currently the highest-ranking Republican in Arizona.

“We have the ability to go to companies that stand for the values that we believe in,” Treasurer Yee said in a Bloomberg interview. “ESG policies and woke corporations are moving in a direction that I believe is dangerous. It’s a political scorecard, and not a financial scorecard.”

Event Hosts

Saura Masconale

Saura Masconale

Associate Director, Center for the Philosophy of Freedom

Assistant Professor of Political Economy and Moral Science

Mary Rigdon

Mary Rigdon

Director, Center for the Philosophy of Freedom

Associate Professor of Political Economy and Moral Science

Robert C. Robbins

Robert C. Robbins

President, University of Arizona

Lindsay Craig

Lindsay Craig

President, National Review Institute

The ESG debate was conceived by Dr. Saura Masconale, Freedom Center Associate Director and Assistant Professor of Political Economy and Moral Science, and organized with Dr. Mary L. Rigdon, Freedom Center Director and Associate Professor of Political Economy and Moral Science. Saura has extensively researched how ESG might impact individual liberties and society. She believes that the ability to engage in the debate, driven by a shared aspiration to comprehend one another and advance understanding, is just as important as the issue itself. This aligns with the Freedom Center’s mission to promote viewpoint diversity and recognize the value of varied perspectives as catalysts for innovation and progress.

About the Freedom Center

We believe freedom is foundational to a healthy democracy and a vibrant university community, which are enriched when we learn about and appreciate diverse perspectives.

The Freedom Center was founded in 2008 and is today a University Center in the Office for Research, Innovation & Impact. It provides research, teaching, and programming that is grounded in individual freedom and honors people’s right to constructively disagree.

Our faculty draw from philosophy, politics, economics, law, and ethics to enhance our understanding of the elements that shape individual and societal prosperity. Center scholars also include post-doctoral fellows, Ph.D. students in philosophy, and visiting and research fellows we host from universities worldwide.

The Center’s impact comes through research, publications, graduate education, academic programs, and major community events. In all we do, we are committed to integrating multiple disciplinary perspectives, training critical thinkers and fostering constructive public debate.

About National Review Institute

NRI logo

National Review defends and advances the ordered liberty that is necessary to human flourishing and to a free, prosperous, and strong America.

Since 1955, National Review magazine has defined the modern conservative movement and enjoyed the broadest allegiance of American conservatives. National Review Institute was founded by William F. Buckley Jr. as a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 1991. NRI’s mission is to preserve and promote Buckley’s legacy, support the National Review mission, and, through an array of educational and outreach programs, advance the principles of a free society:


Free markets are under more dangerous attack, whether legislatively or intellectually, than they have been for decades. With every sign that this attack is going to intensify in the years to come and few signs of an effective pushback, NRI collaborated with National Review to launch National Review Capital Matters. This initiative includes a section on featuring daily commentary and analysis on business, finance, and economics with a distinctly NR sensibility and complementary NRI-sponsored events and webinars. In the same spirit that led Buckley to found National Review, NRI is proud to collaborate on this project to explain, defend, and celebrate capitalism. Through timely commentary from well-known financiers, economists, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, and other specialists, the objective of this initiative is to change the terms of debate over our country’s economic future for the better. At the helm of this initiative is the NRCM editor, Andrew Stuttaford, who had a long career in finance and has also been writing for National Review for decades, and Kevin Hassett, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, who serves as NRCM senior adviser.

Upcoming EventApril 29, 2024

The UArizona Center for the Philosophy of Freedom and the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies are hosting An Unforgettable Evening and Oral History Screening with Holocaust Survivor Hanna Zack Miley. UArizona President Robert C. Robbins, Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives Ben Toma, and Rep. Alma Hernandez are scheduled to participate in the event.

Hanna’s story is a warm reminder of the power of forgiveness. She was born in Germany in 1932, shortly before Hitler seized power. Facing the threat of antisemitism, on July 24, 1939, Hanna’s parents, Marcus and Amalie Zack, placed her on the “Kindertransport” train to England. They would never see her again.

Hanna has since discovered newfound freedom and joy in sharing her story around the world and through her writing and speaking. Come experience Hanna’s story at this free community event.

April 29, 2024 – 5:30-7:00pm

Location: Center for Creative Photography, 1030 N Olive Rd, Tucson, AZ 85719