Today climate activists in New York, San Francisco, London, and Brussels took to the streets while holding to social distancing measures, in solidarity with essential workers and environmental defenders everywhere, to send BlackRock a clear message on the day of its annual general meeting (AGM): Your climate talk is a lot of hot air.
BlackRock got a ton of applause in January when CEO Larry Fink spoke about the urgency of climate change and said he was going to put sustainability at the center of BlackRock’s investment decisions. Sadly, the financial giant’s actions since then simply do not live up to that rhetoric and fall far short of what is actually needed to tackle the climate crisis.
Everybody knew the first big test was going to be this spring: shareholder season 2020. As a major shareholder in so many companies, BlackRock could have used its enormous voting leverage to demand accountability and change at climate-destroying companies like Duke Energy, Barclays, and JPMorgan Chase. But so far? BlackRock is failing the test.
Where we know how BlackRock voted, including at companies like Shell, Barclays, and two Australian oil companies, BlackRock did not support key climate resolutions that were up for vote. While we don’t know for certain how BlackRock voted at other big companies like Duke and Dominion, shareholder resolutions failed to secure enough votes with margins that suggest BlackRock’s large shares were likely voted against the resolutions.
BlackRock also hasn’t disclosed how it voted on several resolutions despite promises of transparency. Worse yet, it hasn’t said how its shares were voted on historic climate denier Lee Raymond staying on the board of JPMorgan Chase. Key resolutions at Chase garnered unprecedented support on Tuesday, but ultimately did not pass.
A very close vote makes it all the more essential that BlackRock disclose how it voted and why. Without transparency, it is near impossible for BlackRock clients, shareholders, and stakeholders to hold BlackRock accountable when it fails to live up to its January promises, particularly around ousting directors for their poor stance on climate.
BlackRock’s last chance this shareholder season is ExxonMobil’s shareholder meeting next week — it has one last chance to do the right thing.
BlackRock’s hot air is so much worse than just its failure to vote for climate.
Right now, BlackRock is still heavily invested in coal, oil, and gas. BlackRock also continues to invest in Amazon oil companies which destroy rainforest and violate Indigenous rights. BlackRock even recently financially supported the company behind the destined-to-fail Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Larry Fink talked a big game about excluding certain coal companies from BlackRock’s investments, but even those companies are only being taken out of its actively managed funds, which are a fraction of BlackRock’s total investments and the exclusion policy covers less than 20% of the coal industry. For BlackRock, clearly the work is not done.
Thanks to pressure from the climate movement, scientists, economists, and clients, BlackRock is waking up to the financial risks of climate change. But the climate movement can see BlackRock’s talk for what it is so far, a lot of hot air. Covid-19 is giving us a terrifying preview of how quickly our global systems can break down under strain. Now, more than ever, real action on climate is beyond urgent.
Our movement will not be idle or silent, even as we hunker down to beat Covid-19. The climate movement just showed that pandemic or no, we can still hold the world’s largest money manager to account.
Participating groups in SF: Friends of the Earth – US, XR SF Bay, 350 Bay Area, Sunrise Movement Bay Area, Diablo Rising Tide Bay Area, Peace Poets, and Sustain Us
Participating groups in NYC: New York Communities for Change (NYCC), Sunrise NYC, Rise & Resist NYC, XR NYC
Credit for images in SF: Brooke Andersen, @movementphotography
Credit for images in NYC: Kate Glicksberg / @kateglicksbergphoto
Click to send your own message to CEO Larry Fink now – and when their offices open up again we’ll deliver them →