Bulletins

Elon Musk is furious Tesla got taken off the S&P 500 ESG list

The world's richest man called the whole endeavor a "scam" after the index removed Tesla for its crashes and reports of racism at its factories.

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk gestures as he arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Awards ceremony, in Berlin, on December 1, 2020. (Photo by Britta Pedersen / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BRITTA PEDERSEN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Elon Musk is calling out the S&P 500 for delisting Tesla from its ESG index.

Photo: Britta Pedersen/AFP via Getty Images

Tesla's cars have helped spur an electric vehicle revolution. But that wasn't enough to stop the S&P 500 from removing the company from its ESG list on Tuesday, leading Elon Musk to call the list a "scam" that has been "weaponized by phony social justice warriors."


The S&P made the decision to remove Tesla despite its ranking remaining relatively stable over the past year. But the automaker has slipped when compared to improvements at other companies, Margaret Dorn, the S&P senior director for ESG Indices North America, wrote in a Wednesday blog post. Dorn said that the company attributed Tesla's fall off the list to reports about poor working conditions and racial discrimination in the company's Fremont, California, factory as well as an NHTSA investigation into reports about deaths and accidents tied to the company's self-driving technology.

"Both of these events had a negative impact on the company’s S&P DJI ESG Score at the criteria level, and subsequently its overall score. While Tesla may be playing its part in taking fuel-powered cars off the road, it has fallen behind its peers when examined through a wider ESG lens," Dorn wrote.

Tesla has faced multiple racial discrimination lawsuits over its treatment of workers at its Fremont factory, one of which it lost last year. Protocol found in a 2021 investigation that 120 individuals requested the right to sue the company for discriminatory reasons between 2018 and 2021 in California. Workers in the Fremont factory have described racist graffiti and the use of racial slurs as rampant throughout the factory and have alleged that Tesla does little to address the incidents when they occur.

Tesla's recently constructed Gigafactory in East Austin has also come under criticism. Both community and environmental advocates have raised concerns that the plant could contribute to the area's noise and water pollution problems, as well as add congestion in an area that's predominantly home to communities of color.

Though the company's products are key to decarbonizing transportation, Tesla has also been dinged in a report released earlier this year by corporate watchdog As You Sow for not having a climate plan to disclose, let alone deal with, its own carbon pollution. That report ranked major polluters like Exxon and Chevron higher for their disclosures. Exxon remains a large part of the S&P 500 ESG list, something Musk was quick to point out in his tweet criticizing the rankings.

That complaint is something climate and social justice advocates — and, increasingly, investors — have also said, noting that the criteria used to create ESG ratings rarely reflect companies' actual progress in reducing carbon pollution or improving society. They've said the rankings instead capture how the world's current and future political and economic climate might affect a company's prospects. Elon, it seems, agrees now that he's been bumped from the list.

Latest Bulletins

The U.S. is set to unveil a fresh set of policies Thursday aimed at choking off China’s access to advanced chip manufacturing technology and the chips themselves, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Keep Reading Show less

Companies like Meta and Lyft have stopped hiring for the year, and that’s music to the ears of other tech companies that are still staffing up. Much of talent sourcing still takes place on LinkedIn, but many recruiters have found their own techniques to use the service more efficiently. We asked LinkedIn’s VP of talent acquisition and three outside recruiters for their best LinkedIn hacks for sourcing talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Kim Kardashian broke the internet, and according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, she also broke the securities laws.

Keep Reading Show less

On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that makes phone calls from California’s prisons free of charge. The new law places the cost of calls not on incarcerated people — or the people receiving calls from them — but on the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

California is the second state after Connecticut and the biggest state by far to institute such a law, which is a direct shot at the $1.4 billion prison telecom industry. For years prison telecom companies have maintained rates that “can be unjustly and unreasonably high, thereby impeding the ability of inmates and their loved ones to maintain vital connections,” the FCC said in 2020.

Prison reform advocates argue the new California law will have a hugely positive impact on the families of incarcerated people in California — and potentially other states that follow California's lead.

Keep Reading Show less

Rohit Chopra arrived as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau one year ago today. True to his reputation as an aggressive watchdog from his time as an FTC commissioner and an earlier stint at the CFPB, he has pursued a busy agenda that’s setting up regulatory battles to come.

Keep Reading Show less
Tech salaries are about to get a lot more transparent. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law to require California employers to post salary ranges in job postings and report hourly pay data by employees’ race and sex to the state. We spoke with four employment lawyers and other pay transparency experts about what this means, and how to comply.
Keep Reading Show less

Microsoft said Friday it's "working on an accelerated timeline" to provide a patch for two newly disclosed vulnerabilities affecting Exchange email servers, which the company acknowledged have been used in attacks on customers.

Keep Reading Show less

Google is stepping up its push for open video formats: The company plans to force hardware manufacturers to support the AV1 video codec if they want to run Android 14 on their mobile devices, according to comments left in recent commits to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) that were first spotted by Esper senior technical editor Mishaal Rahman.

Keep Reading Show less

A troubling new vulnerability affecting Microsoft Exchange email servers has been disclosed by researchers, though details are still emerging on the severity and exploitability of the flaw.

Keep Reading Show less

The gas-powered vehicle ban dominoes have begun to fall.

Keep Reading Show less

Tech industry groups are once again pleading with the 5th Circuit to block HB 20, Texas' on-again, off-again social media law, which the court recently allowed to take effect.

Keep Reading Show less

Sometimes a major "hack" isn't really a hack at all, such as with some breaches caused by the mishandling of APIs.

Keep Reading Show less

The neobank MoneyLion charged service members excessive fees for loans and often refused to cancel paid memberships, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Keep Reading Show less

Google is shutting down its Stadia cloud gaming service, nearly three years after its launch and roughly 18 months since the company shut down its internal game development division.

Keep Reading Show less

Amazon announced pay raises and the rollout of new benefit programs to warehouse employees Wednesday. But one of those products may pose increased risks to the company’s most precarious workers: the expanded rollout of Amazon’s Anytime Pay Program.

Keep Reading Show less

More pay transparency is coming to California. The Golden State is joining New York City, Colorado, and Washington in requiring employers to disclose pay ranges in job ads.

Keep Reading Show less

Cost-cutting in tech is officially hitting the industry’s titans. After years of ruthless staffing up, both Meta and Google have told some employees to find new jobs within the company or leave, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Keep Reading Show less

Calendly, the $3 billion scheduling startup that everyone likes to periodically fight about, has made its first acquisition: Prelude, a startup specializing in the hiring process. Prelude is specifically geared toward scheduling job interviews or other types of recruitment-related meetings.

Keep Reading Show less

Celsius Network CEO Alex Mashinsky resigned from the embattled cryptocurrency lender Tuesday morning. The lender is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings after pausing withdrawals in June.

Keep Reading Show less

Brett Harrison announced on Twitter Tuesday morning that he would be stepping down from his role as president of FTX US and moving to an advisory role. He said he will continue working in the industry.

Keep Reading Show less

Russia set up a sprawling and sophisticated network of websites impersonating mainstream media outlets, which it used to spread anti-Ukrainian messaging that was amplified via fake social media accounts, Meta has found. In a new report published Tuesday, Meta called it Russia’s “largest and most complex” influence operation since the war in Ukraine began.

Keep Reading Show less

Eight states, led by California and New York, have taken legal action against Nexo highlighting growing concerns about companies that offer unregistered crypto lending products.

Keep Reading Show less
It’s a famous startup saying that the next big thing will start out looking like a toy. And there’s no toy that VCs have been more excited about playing around with recently than DALL-E and other generative AI image tools.
Keep Reading Show less

We know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Still, the idea that many corporate benefits aren’t always a benefit recently touched a nerve on Twitter.

“Been thinking about anti-perks in tech jobs. What perks *sound* good but are a hard no from you?”

The tweet came from Jessica Rose, a developer relations advocate, founder of a meetup series for programmers and aspiring programmers and co-founder of Trans*Code, a hacker org devoted to drawing attention to transgender issues and opportunities.

Rose’s “hard no” was to those so-called benefits that have been around since time immemorial (or at least since the dot-com era). “Don't give me food or hammocks or video games, just let me work remotely or go home on time,” said Rose.

'Don’t touch me'

The tweet thread was full of varied responses, but the paradox of unlimited vacation was the clear favorite. “Wow, people are just so suspicious about unlimited paid time off,” Rose told Protocol when we caught up with her to ask about the tweet.

Other workers balked at in-office massages (“don’t touch me”), free booze, open-plan offices (did anyone in the history of the world ever call this a benefit?), fitness rooms, nap rooms, escape rooms (really any rooms), and something called “blameless retrospectives.” Um, what?

If employees are going to be suspicious of whatever perks you offer, why offer any perks at all?

“So I'm aware of how wonderfully spoiled it is to complain about perks being given out in some kinds of tech workplaces,” said Rose. “I'm the most unimpressed by ‘perks’ which either directly undermine employment rights (like unlimited paid time off can do in some regions) or are intended to throw work/life balance out of kilter in the workplace's favor.”

Unlimited or flexible vacation time can work, but it helps when the culture is one where people are encouraged to take time off and experts agree that mandatory minimums go a long way in helping create that kind of culture.

Your best interests or mine? Why can’t it be both? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A director of engineering at Google who formerly worked at Microsoft and Zillow called employer-sponsored coaching an anti-perk. “I’ll spring for a coach who is looking out for my best interests, not the company’s, thanks,” she said, adding, “I know I am lucky to be offered this, but it always feels like a trap.”

There’s good reason to be at least a little wary of these programs. Last year Protocol reported that when tech companies work with coaching programs like BetterUp and Bravely the conversations themselves are confidential, but the company often receives aggregated reports on the issues workers are expressing in general, the topics they’re discussing, what's going well for them at work, and what's not.

When Protocol spoke to Twilio’s VP of talent management Andrew Wilhelms about the company's coaching partnership, Wilhelms explained that BetterUp provides a set of Twilio-specific priorities to coaches and Twilio can update those priorities and goals based on what kind of culture change the company needs to see.

This might feel overly controlling, or it might be a great way to help change a company’s culture for the better, especially if a majority of employees are feeling stressed and burned out and are more likely to tell this to a coach than their manager. Twilio told Protocol that 99% of the employees who used the coaching service last year said the sessions were a valuable use of their time, and that 94% said the sessions made them more effective at their job.

“Thoughtful, meaningful perks can benefit both employers and team members, by helping keep their team members happy and hopefully keep them in their role for longer,” Rose said.

Free SunChips < values-based work culture

Research shows that today’s employees don’t want snacks as much as they want work that aligns with their values, and that extends to benefits.

  • “I love work perks that demonstrate an employer's ethics and commitment to meaningfully supporting their team members,” said Rose.
  • These benefits can include big structural benefits like location-agnostic pay and support for different kinds of employee leave, but also smaller things like “sending people a small bonus on their birthday to buy a cake,” Rose added.
  • Rose also looks for “employers who don't subcontract out cleaning or security staff, to make sure that all of their team members get access to the same kinds of pay and support.”

What your 'perks' say about your corporate culture

Some “anti-perks” are just common decency and respect, such as believing your employees are telling the truth when they call in sick. In response to Rose’s prompt, one senior system admin pointed out a job listing that offers an “honor-based sick leave policy” in addition to its “commitment to an open, inclusive and diverse work culture.”

And think twice about listing your game room in your job description, tweeted a product designer from Miro:

“When they advertise a ping-pong table in the job listing, it's a huge 🚩 for me. And I love ping-pong. If a silly perk like this [is] such a relevant part of your benefits package, that says a lot about what the company values, and likely its culture."

A version of this story appeared in Protocol's Workplace newsletter. Sign up here to get it in your inbox three times a week.

Brisk political winds are chilling tech business relations between the U.S. and China, and perhaps more than anything right now, companies with business in China are fretting over one thing the U.S. government could do: change the rules for investments flowing from China into the U.S.
Keep Reading Show less
Bulletins