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Global Campaign Exposes BlackRock for Devastating Climate Impacts of Investments

Campaigners Urge CEO Larry Fink to heed his own words and define BlackRock’s social purpose

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Some of the country’s largest environmental and human rights groups issued a challenge1 to BlackRock at its annual shareholder meeting today, daring the world’s largest asset manager to take greater leadership on climate change following ambitious statements by BlackRock’s CEO calling on corporations to pursue ends beyond pure short-term profit.2

Directors of 10 global environmental organizations sent a letter to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink earlier this month, highlighting that the company’s current approach on climate change is inadequate and significantly more action is needed to align BlackRock’s investments with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.3  As shareholders entered the company’s annual meeting this morning, a Larry Fink lookalike revised the CEO’s widely read statement to acknowledge the gravity of the climate crisis.

BlackRock, with over $6.3 trillion of assets under management, is a leading investor in sectors driving climate change: coal, oil, gas and deforestation, as well as the banks that finance them.4  These investments run counter to the public statements Larry Fink has given on the importance of climate action and the message of his most recent yearly investor letter admonishing CEOs to serve a social purpose or lose social license to operate.5

BlackRock’s initial steps on climate action include endorsing the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and resourcing a robust shareholder engagement team with an aim to press BlackRock invested companies on their climate record.  Despite this rhetoric, BlackRock scores poorly on climate shareholder engagement compared to other large asset managers.6   

Statements:

Jeff Conant, Senior International Forests Director with Friends of the Earth:

BlackRock is a leading financier of the global palm oil sector and other industrial commodities that are burning down rainforests and burning up the climate. The company has acknowledged that deforestation brings real financial risks for investors–but BlackRock continues to finance numerous companies whose social mission appears to be to grab land, strip it of its forests and turn it into plantations run on cheap labor. To show real leadership on climate, BlackRock needs to defund deforestation.

Gloria Ushigua Santi, indigenous leader of the Sapara Nation in the Ecuadorian Amazon, who travelled to New York to address BlackRock shareholders:

The survival of Amazonian indigenous peoples depends on the health of our forest, rivers, mountains, plants and animals. Yet oil companies want to enter our territories, which would threaten our very existence. The largest investors in these oil companies, including BlackRock, must understand that the Sapara’s future is at stake, but so is the future of all living beings, because the earth cannot survive without forests like the Amazon. We must keep this oil in the ground.

Casey Harrell, Finance Campaign Coordinator, The Sunrise Project:

BlackRock’s investments in fossil fuels and deforestation drive climate chaos.  Last year the company made headlines stating that coal, the leading driver of climate change, “is dead” — yet BlackRock remains the world’s largest investor in new coal plant development.  It is time for Larry Fink to heed the challenge he issued to other CEOs and define BlackRock’s own social purpose in respect to climate change.

Kelly Martin, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign:

Blackrock CEO Larry Fink’s stated support for climate action is a good first step, but the company’s continued investments in fossil fuel expansion are simply not compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement or with Blackrock’s public commitment to climate action. We must keep dirty fuels in the ground, starting with the most egregious projects, like tar sands and Arctic oil. Major asset managers like Blackrock should join other institutional investors7 and use its enormous power for good by aligning its investments with the rapid transition to a clean energy economy that we need.

Leila Salazar-López, Executive Director, Amazon Watch:

Despite BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s impressively-worded letters about addressing climate change and ‘social purpose,’ by investing in companies drilling for oil in the Amazon BlackRock is literally bankrolling the path to an unlivable and inequitable world. It is high time for BlackRock and the rest of the financial industry to recognize and act upon the fact that our collective future lies not in short-term profits but in the protection of rights, forests, and the climate, and in bold investments in renewable energy.

Expert contact: Jeff Conant, (575)770-2829, JConant@foe.org
Communications contact: Patrick Davis, (202) 222-0744, pdavis@foe.org

Links cited:

  1. NGO letter to Larry Fink.

  2. Larry Fink Letter:  Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose . . . without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential. It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders”

  3. The groups signing the letter to BlackRock include:  Greenpeace International, 350.org, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, Client Earth, Friends of the Earth US, The Sunrise Project, Amazon Watch, Divest Invest Network, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility

  4. https://coalexit.org/sites/default/files/download_public/Investors%20vs.%20Paris_web.pdf

    https://influencemap.org/site/data/000/269/Who_Owns_the_Worlds_Coal_May_2017.pdf

  5. A briefing paper “BlackRock’s Climate Problem” is available: https://view.publitas.com/21edef52-63ad-41b8-bb60-987946a39091/blackrock-white-paper/page/1

  6. Asset Managers, Report on Key Climate Votes: https://5050climate.org/news/new-report-leading-asset-managers-failing-on-key-climate-votes

  7. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/14/investors-urge-fossil-fuel-firms-shun-trump-arctic-drilling-plans-alaskan-wilderness 

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