BlackRock’s Big Problem Responds to Fink’s Letters

BlackRock’s Big Problem Responds to Larry Fink’s 2021 Letters

BlackRock continues steps in the right direction, but falls short of the visionary leadership needed

WASHINGTON- Today, BlackRock released CEO Larry Fink’s annual letter to CEOs as well as a letter to its clients. The letters spelled out the next steps the world’s largest asset manager will be taking to address the climate crisis. With close to $9 trillion in assets under management, BlackRock has expansive power and responsibility to push for a sustainable future. While today’s letters indicated several steps in the right direction for the financial giant, it falls short of the visionary financial leadership that is needed to meet the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.

Partners within the BlackRock’s Big Problem network, a coalition of environmental, investor, and grassroots advocacy organizations, issued the following statements:

Diana Best, Senior Strategist, The Sunrise Project:
“It’s important that the world’s largest financial institution is acknowledging that we have an urgent, moral, and financial imperative to address runaway climate change. But ultimately, decarbonization is the only result that matters if we are going to avert the worst impacts of climate change. While this year’s letters indicate progress with a glancing reference to interim targets, BlackRock hasn’t actually offered a pathway for how it will take significant and adequate carbon out of its portfolios. We welcome steps in the right direction but will continue to push BlackRock toward the accountable and visionary leadership that is needed to tackle the crisis.”

Ben Cushing, Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club:
“Activists and investors around the world have been pressuring BlackRock to deliver on its climate commitments and slash emissions from its portfolios. Today’s letters indicate that our pressure is forcing change, as demonstrated by BlackRock’s commitment to accelerate the transition to a net-zero world. Now, BlackRock’s rhetoric needs to be backed up with concrete actions, starting with exiting its holdings in companies expanding fossil fuel production and voting against the boards of laggard companies this shareholder season. The failure of Vanguard and other leading US asset managers to show similar leadership is increasingly glaring, and they will face mounting pressure to act quickly to reduce their climate impact.”

Pete Sikora, Climate Director, New York Communities for Change:
“Public pressure on financial institutions like BlackRock brings the scrutiny needed to win change. We’ll be watching to see if BlackRock is full of hot air on climate, or if it is turning a corner into serious action. In contrast to BlackRock, NYC just began implementing $4 billion in divestment from the fossil fuel industry. BlackRock should take a hint and concretely commit to ending investments in the companies that drive climate destruction. This year, BlackRock should vote against all directors of corporations that refuse to confront their complicity on climate change.”

Erika Thi Patterson, Climate and Environmental Justice Campaign Director, The Action Center on Race and the Economy:
“While Larry Fink mentioned racial justice in his letter, he has failed to be accountable for BlackRock’s role in exploiting and harming Black, brown, and Indigenous communities while fueling our climate crisis. BlackRock cannot be the largest holder of coal and one of the biggest holders of companies tied to tar sands and deforestation and claim that it cares about racial justice. Unless BlackRock stops backing the companies that pollute our air, water, and land, it continues to be a party to the structures of environmental racism, which lead to lower life expectancy rates and higher rates of serious diseases in BIPOC communities. Until it acts to reverse these harms, it is responsible for profiteering off the suffering of BIPOC communities worldwide.”

Katrin Ganswindt, Finance Campaigner at Urgewald:
“It’s a positive sign that BlackRock wants to take its immense responsibility for our climate as the world’s largest asset manager more seriously. What is still lacking, however, are concrete steps on how BlackRock intends to exclude Europe’s leading CO2 emitters such as RWE or CEZ or the entire US coal industry from its portfolio. Achieving net zero by 2050 could mean a lot of things, including offsetting rather than actually reducing emissions. To keep up with decent coal policies by other investors such as AXA, Union Investment or Allianz, BlackRock needs to do much more: ditch coal expansionists, start excluding coal power players and lower all thresholds for coal company exclusions close to zero by 2030. As it is now, we just don’t see BlackRock taking enough accountability yet.”

Jeff Conant, International Forests Program Manager, Friends of the Earth:
“By not defining what it means by net zero, BlackRock leaves the door wide open for investments that continue to drive the overlapping crises of deforestation, species extinction and habitat loss, and egregious violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Net zero is “not zero” if it relies on scaling up investments in polluting biofuels and biomass electricity, expanding monoculture tree plantations, and priming the market for dubious offset schemes and other carbon accounting tricks. Financial institutions like BlackRock need to make a clean break with the extractive economy now.”

Moira Birss, Climate and Finance Director, Amazon Watch:
“If BlackRock and other financial firms are truly committed to addressing climate change, they must both decarbonize and center justice and human rights. It is unacceptable that BlackRock remains silent on how it will address the impacts on the communities and activists at the front lines of the fossil fuel and deforestation-risk commodity industries that are causing climate change and harming the rights, health, safety and livelihoods of forest peoples, frontline communities, and Indigenous peoples.”

David Arkush, Climate Program Director, Public Citizen:
“Private commitments are not a substitute for public action. If it is truly committed to a financial system that is ‘more resilient, sustainable, and equitable,’ BlackRock — and the industry groups to which it belongs — must not oppose efforts by governments to regulate financial firms’ impacts on the climate.”

Mary Cerulli, Co-founder, Climate Finance Action:
“BlackRock’s continued progress on climate action shines a harsh light on Vanguard and State Street’s lack of action. While BlackRock’s commitments will have to be put to the test this year, we have only seen initial climate steps from State Street and nothing from Vanguard. Climate is clearly becoming a legacy issue for Larry Fink, and the world would be better off if the issue of climate justice became the top priority for State Street CEO Ronald O’Hanley and Vanguard chief executive Tim Buckley, who are now falling woefully behind. ”


More information
A full analysis of the commitments in Fink’s 2021 letters will be available here later today:

Shareholder advocacy group Majority Action also released a statement this morning which can be viewed here:

Information on the solutions BlackRock’s Big Problem is calling for is available here:

A full analysis of what BlackRock did and did not achieve on climate in 2020 is available here:

Expert contact:
Jason Schwartz, [email protected], 347.452.3752
Myriam Fallon, [email protected], 708.546.9001

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