UPDATE (1/18/24): After The Texas Voice published this article on January 12, ProFrac Holding Corp. removed the “2023 ESG Progress Report” presentation from its website. An archived version of the company’s website showing the “ESG Progress Report” can be viewed here. A copy of ProFrac Holding Corp.’s now-deleted “2023 ESG Progress Report can be downloaded here.
Conservatives across America in recent years have expressed alarm at the growing proliferation of Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) and Diversity and Inclusion (“DI”) initiatives throughout various aspects of society, including government, academia, and the corporate world. Concerns about ESG and DI initiatives stem from the belief that these initiatives are frequently used to promote liberal ideologies.
Responding to these concerns, state lawmakers have successfully passed laws during the most recent legislative sessions to mitigate the influence of ESG and DI initiatives in Texas. Some of the Republican legislators that were instrumental in the passage of these bills- touted by proponents as “fighting the woke agenda”- now find themselves under attack from organizations with ties to a major political donor whose family owns and runs a company that openly promotes ESG and DI initiatives within their business.
Businessman Farris Wilks has become one of the most significant political donors in Texas over the past decade, contributing over $13 million to candidates and political organizations at the state level. This figure does not include millions of dollars more he has given individually or through his charitable foundation, the Thirteen Foundation, to non-profit organizations involved in the political or public policy arenas that are not required to disclose their donors publicly.
Wilks has donated at least $4,750,000 to the embattled Defend Liberty PAC since 2022. Defend Texas Liberty has been at the center of controversy in recent months after it was reported that former State Representative Jonathan Stickland, who served as President of Defend Texas Liberty, had hosted notorious white nationalist and antisemitic commentator Nick Fuentes at his office for over six hours in October.
Nearly half of the State Republican Executive Committee later signed a letter calling upon the Republican Party of Texas to cut ties to Defend Texas Liberty, which has become one of the largest donors to the Party, until “is removed and disassociated from [Defend Texas Liberty] and its benefactor organizations” and a “full accounting” of the meeting with Fuentes was provided. The Texas Voice has also previously reported on the long history of antisemitic comments made by the leaders of the True Texas Project, which has received significant financial support from Defend Texas Liberty.
Farris Wilks and his younger brother, Dan Wilks, are the controlling shareholders of ProFrac Holding Corp., also known as PF Holdings. According to a disclosure filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 25, 2023, Dan Wilks is the beneficial owner of 44.5% of the common stock of PF Holdings, while Farris Wilks is the beneficial owner of 37.8% of PF Holdings’ common stock. Farris Wilks’ son, Ladd Wilks, serves as Chief Executive Officer of PF Holdings, while Dan Wilks’ son, Matthew Wilks, is the company’s executive chairman. While Dan Wilks’ political giving over the past several years is significantly less than that of his brother, Dan Wilks has been a significant political donor in his own right. The political donations that Dan Wilks has made align with those of his brother.
A review of the PF Holdings’ website and websites for its subsidiary companies indicate that the company has fully embraced and actively promotes the ESG and DI initiatives that conservatives have voiced grave concerns about.
The investor relations website for PF Holdings prominently features a PowerPoint presentation dated December 5, 2023, entitled “PF Holdings 2023 ESG Progress Report.” The presentation outlines the importance of ESG and DI initiatives within the company.
In the introduction page of the presentation, the company states, “At PF Holdings, we recognize that making a difference in Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) is a collective endeavor.” The introduction further addresses ESG’s role in company strategy and incorporates sustainability goals developed by the United Nations.
“Our Environmental, Social, and Governance Committee develops PF Holdings’ ESG strategic direction and is driving progress through a cross-functional team of Subject Matter Experts (“SMEs”) representing Environmental, Health and Safety, Legal and Compliance, Operations, Human Resources, Finance, Investor Relations, and Communications. Our ESG Committee of our Board of Directors provides guidance, insight, and oversight regarding the strategy, initiatives, and management’s ESG performance. With the assistance of outside ESG expertise, we have assessed key indicators and engaged with both internal and external stakeholders on ESG topics to inform our strategy and future direction.
To ensure transparent communication of our values, we have implemented robust data gathering and reporting, using the investor-focused disclosure standards developed by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (“SASB”) Standards and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”). Working with investor stakeholders, SASB has developed standardized disclosures on the industry-specific issues prioritized by investors, while the Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better future for all. We have also begun assessing our future GHG emissions and potential reduction opportunities,” said the company.
PF Holdings’ ESG presentation discusses how ESG has become an increasingly important part of the company’s business practices, noting, “In 2022 and 2023, we developed an ambitious ESG strategy to align with the broader transformation of PF Holdings. Our leadership team recognized the importance of embedding environmental and social priorities within our business operations and approved an enhanced and modernized ESG strategy intended to promote further advancement in sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and increased transparency.”
PF Holdings’ commitment to Diversity and Inclusion initiatives is also highlighted in the presentation, which states, “We believe that exceptional people working together are the foundation of our success. We continually strive to leverage our knowledge, talents, and resources to create a diverse and inclusive environment that fuels innovation and growth. Diversity & Inclusion (“DI”) are more than concepts at PF Holdings; they are catalysts for creativity, efficiency, and continuous improvement in our business.
Our goal is to foster a workspace where everyone feels safe, welcomed, and valued. This leads to increased job satisfaction, reduced turnover, and an engaged, productive workforce. We firmly believe that DI is good business, and we have made it our mission to drive success and growth through embracing inclusion as a strategy.”
The company also uses the controversial term “Latinx” when discussing the ethnic, racial, and gender makeup of its employees. Last year, Sen. Ted Cruz authored legislation that would ban federal agencies from using the word “Latinx” on official government documents.
PF Holdings’ presentation notes that 59% of the company’s employees come from “underrepresented” groups, with the company stating, “Underrepresented employees include Black/ African American, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, or two or more races, as well as women.”
“Sustainable Development Goals” adopted by the United Nations also play a crucial role in PF Holdings’ ESG and EI programs. PF Holdings states that these goals “are a series of interlinked goals adopted by UN member states in 2015. These goals focus on creating a fairer, more just world with more sustainable economic and environmental practices by 2030. The goals are ambitious and will only succeed through the combined efforts of government, business, and civil society.” Noting the importance of these United Nations goals in the company’s operations, the presentation also says, “We support the SDGs, and recognizing the importance of the goals, we have linked our priority areas to them. We have prioritized several goals that most align with our business and where we can make a positive impact around the world.”
Some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals featured in PF Holdings’ presentation include Climate Change (“Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”), Reduce Inequalities (“Reduce all forms of inequality within and among countries”), and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (“Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels).
An investor presentation dated June 21, 2023, that is posted to the PF Holdings website also touts the company’s commitment to ESG principles, listing “Demonstrating commitment to ESG leadership” on a slide entitled “ProFrac Investment Highlights.”
While the company he and his family control promotes and incorporates ESG and DI programs in their business, political organizations with ties to Farris Wilks are targeting Republican lawmakers who have successfully passed bills combating ESG and DI programs for defeat in the upcoming primary elections.
The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 833 into law during the most recent legislative session. This new law, opposed by the vast majority of Texas House Democrats, prohibits insurance carriers from considering ESG factors in determining insurance rates.
At least six Republican cosponsors of Senate Bill 833 face primary opponents supported by True Texas Project or other groups tied to Farris Wilks. Those Republican lawmakers include Briscoe Cain, Stan Gerdes, Stan Kitzman, Candy Noble, Glenn Rogers, and Kronda Thimesch. In addition to those six lawmakers, several other joint sponsors or cosponsors of Senate Bill 833 are likely to be opposed by groups with ties to Farris Wilks in the primary. Those lawmakers include Cody Harris, Frederick Frazier, Cole Hefner, Lacey Hull, and David Spiller.
The legislature also recently passed Senate Bill 17 into law, which bans public universities in Texas from having diversity, equity, and inclusion offices on campuses. Two of the Republican sponsors of the bill in the Texas House, State Representatives John Kuempel and Matt Shaheen, face primary opponents whom the True Texas Project supports.
It remains to be seen to what extent Republican Party of Texas State Chairman Matt Rinaldi will endorse candidates backed by groups tied to Farris Wilks. As a candidate for State Chairman in 2021, Rinaldi stated that it would be his “general policy” not to make endorsements in primaries and would only do so in “rare and extraordinary” circumstances. At that time, Rinaldi stated his belief that the “Chair needs to maintain neutrality in Party elections while he’s Chair and work for the betterment of the Party.”
More recently, however, Rinaldi has backed away from his prior pledge on neutrality and endorsed challenger David Covey against Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan and Brent Money in the open seat in House District 2. Appearing on the Chris Salcedo show last week, Rinaldi signaled he would be making additional endorsements in Texas House primaries. “I’ll endorse, and I have no problem with that,” said Rinaldi. “I’ll absolutely endorse.” Both Covey and Money have received substantial donations from Defend Texas Liberty and are endorsed by the True Texas Project.
Rinaldi has direct financial and business ties to Farris Wilks through his work as an attorney for Wilks. Disclosure statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on October 3, 2023, October 31, 2023, and November 2, 2023, are each signed by Rinaldi in his capacity as “Attorney-in-Fact” for Farris Wilks, Farris Wilks’ wife Jo Ann Wilks, and the Farris and Jo Ann Wilks 2022 Family Trust.