BlackRock falls short on 2020 climate votes

New investment stewardship report shows BlackRock’s voting record falls short of its rhetoric and the urgency of the crisis

New York, NY – Today, BlackRock released a new investment stewardship report. In the report the world’s largest asset manager detailed how it voted during the 2020 shareholder season which was the first big test of the climate commitments it made in January of this year. 

While BlackRock released voting briefings for a handful of shareholder votes during the season (including at Barclays, Chevron, Exxon, and Mizuho), until today it had not disclosed how it voted on other key climate shareholder resolutions, including at companies like JPMorgan Chase, Ford, Duke, and Dominion. 

Members for the BlackRock’s Big Problem network issued the following statements in response to BlackRock’s latest Investment Stewardship Report:

Ben Cushing, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club:

“Despite Larry Fink’s pledge to radically reshape BlackRock’s business to address the climate crisis, this shareholder season BlackRock took only baby steps forward by voting the right way on a fraction of the climate tests on the table, and claiming that stronger action is on the way. It failed to vote for climate action at nearly 80% of the companies it identified as not making sufficient progress. BlackRock still has a long way to go before it can credibly claim to be taking the necessary action to meet the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.”

Eli Kasargod-Staub, Executive Director of Majority Action:

BlackRock and other top asset managers have the outsized voting power and responsibility to hold corporate boards accountable on climate change and demand urgent and fundamental transformation within electric power, finance, transportation, and oil and gas sectors to align to our net-zero future. Despite promises from Larry Fink earlier in the year to put climate change at the center of BlackRock’s investment strategy, BlackRock’s votes from 2020 shows that it still fails to appreciate the magnitude and rapidly increasing speed of the climate crisis.”

Jason Opeña Disterhoft, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network:

“BlackRock faced two clear tests on JPMorgan Chase, the world’s top banker of fossil fuels, and it failed both. It voted to re-elect Lee Raymond, the chief architect of global climate denial, to the board. If BlackRock thinks Lee Raymond is climate-competent, then it must think that literally anyone is. And BlackRock voted against a common-sense carbon-footprinting resolution that would have passed with its support.”

Diana Best, Senior Strategist for the Sunrise Project:

“While we acknowledge that BlackRock ‘took action’ by voting against directors at pure play coal companies like Peabody and Arch, it begs the question why BlackRock, on behalf of its clients, remains invested in such companies at all. For pure play companies like Peabody, the problem isn’t solved by a change in the board, and the thermal coal sector remains in structural decline. Despite global recognition for its climate policies announced in January, BlackRock’s coal exclusion policy clearly falls flat.”

Moira Birss, Climate and Finance Director, Amazon Watch

“Once again, BlackRock is silent on how it plans to address its role as one of the world’s largest investors in deforestation-risk commodities, which are the second-largest driver of climate change and a major cause of Indigenous rights violations. Even after supporting a Ceres investor guide on deforestation, and as we are fast approaching a severe fire season in the Amazon, BlackRock has yet to make clear how it plans to hold deforestation drivers to account. That must change.”

Key takeaways from BlackRock’s 2020 voting record include:

  • BlackRock took action at just 22% of the companies it identified as making insufficient progress on climate. It put the remaining companies “on watch” saying the asset manager will vote against management at these companies in 2021 if they don’t make significant progress. 
  • BlackRock identified 110 other companies across carbon-intensive sectors to initiate engagement with in the second half of 2020. These companies generally fall into two categories: companies based in emerging market countries that are heavily reliant on carbon-intensive sources of energy, such as coal, and companies in sectors that are in the next wave of tackling climate change, such as financial services, whose emissions generally are what is considered Scope 3. JPMorgan Chase, for example, has provided $268 billion in lending and underwriting to fossil fuel companies since Paris; more information on banks’ role in driving climate change in Banking on Climate Change 2020.
  • Deeper analysis from Majority Action on all of BlackRock’s 2020 shareholder votes will be released later today.

Communications contact: Erin Jensen, (202) 222-0722, [email protected]

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