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Campaign Calls on BlackRock to Put Its Money Where Its Mouth Is on Climate Change

Image credit: BlackRock's Big Problem

A campaign launched today is holding BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, accountable as the single largest contributor to climate destruction. BlackRock’s Big Problem — supported by over a dozen organizations, including Friends of the Earth US, Amazon Watch and the Sierra Club, with support from The Sunrise Project — asserts that as the world’s biggest owner of fossil fuel companies, BlackRock is putting the planet on a path towards runaway climate change. The campaign launches as world leaders in climate policy, solutions and finance gather in New York for Climate Week.

With $6.3 trillion under management, Blackrock’s portfolio is equal to the world’s top 20 pension funds. To the campaign’s point, BlackRock is the largest investor in new coal plant developments worldwide, one of the largest investors in oil and gas companies, and the largest U.S. investor in rainforest destruction — the second-largest driver of climate change.



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Such holdings are incongruous, to say the least, with the rhetoric of its CEO, Larry Fink, who has repeatedly espoused his belief that corporations should play a positive role in society or risk losing their social license. In 2017, he told leaders of his client companies that climate risk would be one of the year’s key engagement priorities of BlackRock’s Investment Stewardship team; and in this year’s CEO letter, Fink issued an ultimatum: In order to continue receiving the support of BlackRock, social responsibility needs to rise to the top of their company’s priority lists. 

The environmental groups behind BlackRock’s Big Problem demand that the company stop investing in climate destruction by divesting from fossil fuel companies unwilling to change their practices, and to start prioritizing fossil-fuel-free and deforestation-free funds. The campaign also urges BlackRock to push companies it owns to align with the Paris Climate Accord and pressure industry laggards through transparent shareholder engagement.

“Larry Fink wants to be thought of as a socially responsible corporate leader,” said Moira Birss, spokesperson for Amazon Watch. “Yet BlackRock refuses to divest from tar sands, coal, Arctic oil, Amazon crude and rainforest destruction, and votes against shareholder demands for climate action and transparency. That is not social responsibility.”

Today’s campaign launched during Climate Week NYC at both BlackRock’s headquarters and the week’s preeminent climate investor events. Organizers engaged with Climate Week attendees as well as BlackRock employees, offering wristbands and other small gifts with campaign messaging, while other campaigners circled the events with a digital banner truck and other advertising. These actions were designed to celebrate investors who are leading on climate action and raising awareness about BlackRock’s role as a laggard.

Fink has publicly expressed the importance of responsible investing, telling CEOs, “every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” Yet BlackRock lags behind its fellow asset managers, refusing to divest from dangerous fossil fuels and voting against shareholder demands for climate action and transparency.

“Larry Fink may talk a good game about sustainable investment, but when it comes to action he is a hypocrite,” said Lukas Ross, Senior Policy Analyst at Friends of the Earth. “Under his leadership, BlackRock is a leading investor in fossil fuels and rainforest destruction.”

Asset managers are the biggest owner of the global economy, controlling approximately US$90 trillion. This consolidation of wealth means asset managers such as BlackRock are among the largest shareholders in most publicly traded companies, wielding enormous influence with little accountability for their investment approach or shareholder votes. BlackRock’s Big Problem — the first major climate campaign targeting a U.S. asset manager — hopes to shed light on the magnitude of BlackRock’s potential to combat climate change and push asset managers to proactively lead.

“BlackRock has an enormous amount of power, and it's time for them to start using that power for good rather than supporting climate destruction," said Sierra Club Campaign Representative Ben Cushing. "If Larry Fink is serious about his climate legacy, it's going to take more than good intentions and public statements. He must act now to align BlackRock's actions with his words and stop funding dirty fossil fuels."


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