Ask just about anyone what ESG is, and you will get blank stares. It means Environmental, Social and Governance and it is the fundamental framework used by most corporations and money managers to define how they are making the world a better place to live and work.

Ask anyone what SDG’s are, and they may think you are talking about a sexually transmitted disease. In fact, they are 17 sustainable goals set in 2015 by the United Nations to be met by 2030. Small issues like no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, reducing inequality, peace, justice, etc.

Ask anyone what the PRI is, and they will probably say it is a political party. In fact, it is the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI).

And ask 10 people what ‘impact,’ ‘purpose,’ ‘socially responsible, or ‘sustainable’ mean and you will get 10 different answers. Anything can be sustainable, or have impact, or be socially responsible. In the 1980’s Newsweek had a popular marketing campaign about ‘impact’ journalism.

Why does this alphabet soup of acronyms matter? Take the PRI, for example. It is followed by more than 1,600 companies, institutions, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and is fundamental to demonstrating they are good corporate citizens.

This proliferation of vague words and acronyms to discuss the world’s most vexing social and climate challenges is more than just an alphabet soup of confusion. It has created an overly complex and easily exploited framework that leads to indecision, obfuscation, and issues dilution. The UN’s SDG’s are not only wildly optimistic – solve poverty by 2030 – but they also create false equivalents. Climate Action, for example, is UN SDG #13, behind ‘responsible consumption and production,’ but ahead of ‘life below water.’

ESG can mean almost anything to anyone, making it extremely difficult to measure and even harder for investors to understand. Indexing giant MSCI, for example, rates more than 13,000 companies, and measures more than 65,000 securities and 8 million derivatives on ESG standards.

Worse, these terms allow greenwashing to proliferate. Clever wordsmiths can take ESG, PRI or SDG to claim their institutions are responsible global stewards. Any company can claim they are ESG friendly, depending on what weight it puts on particular environmental, social and governance practices.

Climate & Capital is not about to reinvent the lexicon of how the world talks about climate change. Experts are aware of the problem and work is underway to put some meat to the bone. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England recently said that “comparable, reliable, and clear disclosure,” for both “markets and governments” is needed to manage the transition to a low-carbon future.

What we will do is play our part prioritizing, simplifying, and demystifying the climate change conversation. We will also highlight acronyms that are having an impact. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s (“CDP”), for example has hard, quantifiable goals. Hundreds of companies with more than $95 trillion of invested capital now support this annual survey of global companies regarding their greenhouse gas emissions and strategies for addressing climate change.

Our goal is to make even the most complex topic easier to understand, invest, act and be on the lookout for wolves dressed in sheeps’ clothing.