BlackRock continues to be a major financial investor in the deforestation commodity companies currently fuelling the fires in the Amazon.
By Pendle Marshall- Hallmark | Amazon Watch
September 4, 2020 – The fires occurring in rainforests all over the world are not wildfires. They are set by criminal arsonists seeking to clear land to make way for agribusiness interests. Alarmingly, fires on Indigenous lands have increased by 77 percent compared to the same period from 2019. As this year’s burning season in the Amazon is already off to the worst start in a decade, public outrage at the irresponsibility of BlackRock’s investment practices is also growing exponentially.
Despite positioning itself earlier this year as a financial firm that leads on climate, BlackRock continues to be a major financial investor in the deforestation commodity companies currently fueling the fires in the Amazon. Analysis from Amazon Watch and Friends of the Earth U.S. has shown that BlackRock is a top investor in deforestation-risk commodities around the world, and despite vague commitments to prioritize “sustainability,” the company lacks clearly defined policies to prevent deforestation or safeguard the rights of Indigenous peoples in its investments.
The depth of BlackRock’s greenwashing is astounding. The asset management giant is among the top three shareholders in 25 of the world’s largest publicly listed deforestation-risk companies. It is also a major investor in the world’s largest meatpacking company, JBS, which sources its cattle from illegally deforested parts of the Amazon and is linked to human rights violations. Furthermore, BlackRock has $250 billion invested in Consumer Goods Forum companies that committed to end deforestation in their supply chains by 2020, but have failed to do so. For the last decade, BlackRock has voted against every single shareholder resolution calling for action on deforestation.
Amazon Watch partnered with Friends of the Earth U.S. to outline a series of key principles and guidelines that a policy from BlackRock – or any asset manager – on deforestation and Indigenous rights should entail. In Amazon Watch reports Investing in Amazon Crude and Complicity in Destruction II, the reputational risks associated with investing in climate-damaging industries that destroy the Amazon have been outlined in detail. BlackRock is aware of the actions it must take to stop the fires, yet it fails to undertake them.
The climate movement is done waiting. During an online rally held on Monday, the Fires Week of Action coalition launched a joint petition calling on several member companies of the Consumer Goods Forum and their major investors — including BlackRock — to cut deforestation out of their supply chains.
Amazon Watch led a virtual action against BlackRock during the rally, calling on climate activists to flood the voicemail of Michelle Edkins, BlackRock’s Managing Director of Investment Stewardship, with calls for the company to adopt a binding policy on deforestation and Indigenous people’s rights.
Taking matters into their own hands, on Tuesday, activists in San Francisco and New York City carried out direct actions on the BlackRock headquarters offices in both cities, leaving removable decals on the front doors of the buildings to call attention to the hypocrisy of the company’s investments in Amazon destruction. As part of our #AmazonCeaseFire campaign, thousands of activists have endorsed a petition calling for BlackRock to develop a binding policy on deforestation and Indigenous rights. Further activities — including an in-person delivery of the petitions — are slated to take place throughout the month of September as pressure mounts on BlackRock and other major financial institutions to turn their words into action.
Last week marked the close of the Fires Week of Action, a series of climate-related actions targeting the major corporations and financial institutions profiting from the destruction of rainforests around the world. Organized by Amazon Watch, Friends of the Earth U.S., Rainforest Action Network, and SumOfUs, the week included several direct and online actions, rallies, and teach-in events. Climate activists heard directly from frontline leaders about the deforestation commodities destroying their homelands and strategized new ways to pressure some of the biggest corporations currently profiting from this crisis, including BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager.
As this Fires Week of Action comes to a close, new analysis reveals that due to an error with a NASA satellite, the fires in the Brazilian Amazon have not fallen by 5 percent in August as previously reported. In fact, fires have likely increased between 1 and 2 percent compared to August 2019.
The fires that erupted across the Amazon last year captured the world’s attention and mobilized millions to act to prevent its collapse. But with this year’s burning season showing no improvement, preserving the Amazon and stabilizing the global climate demands a renewed sense of urgency and action.