Today’s vote represented the first big test of BlackRock's commitment to vote against management at companies not acting fast enough on climate… BlackRock FAILED
Upon news that BlackRock and Vanguard voted in favor of Wells Fargo Chairman Charles H. Noski, coalition members of BlackRock’s Big Problem released the following statements:
“Wells Fargo has fallen significantly behind the curve when it comes to meeting the moment on climate action, and today it falls even further,” said Ben Cushing, campaign manager at Sierra Club. “Today, BlackRock and Vanguard did not live up to their rhetoric on climate action. We will be monitoring other pivotal shareholder votes closely and hope to see the largest investors step up to hold corporations accountable for their climate failures.”
“Today, BlackRock had a chance to show us it was serious about its commitments to tackle climate change. Instead, BlackRock chose business as usual at one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel banks,” said Mary Cerulli, co-founder of Climate Finance Action. “That’s why activists will continue doing the work needed to hold BlackRock accountable and pressure this finance giant to do better. The planet is at stake.”
“Today, BlackRock and Vanguard faced a major test on climate, and they failed,” said Jason Opeña Disterhoft, senior campaigner at Rainforest Action Network Climate. “They endorsed the management of the world’s #3 fossil bank, and #1 fracking bank, with the weakest coal exit policy among its US peers. By giving a thumbs up to Wells Fargo’s record on fossil fuels, BlackRock and Vanguard have shown how low a bar they’re setting for climate action.”
Today’s vote on Chairman Charles H. Noski marked the first big test of whether BlackRock will follow through on its rhetoric and vote against management at companies not acting fast enough to curb the climate crisis.
Noski was re-elected at this morning’s Annual General Meeting with at least 94% of the vote, making it highly improbable for either Vanguard or BlackRock to have voted against him given their share of the vote. Neither Vanguard nor BlackRock has released a statement announcing their vote. BlackRock holds nearly 7% of Wells Fargo, making it the bank’s second largest shareholder after Vanguard, which holds 7.6%.
In January 2021, BlackRock expanded its voting criteria and announced that it would hold directors accountable when their companies fail to address climate change in their business plans.
The BlackRock’s Big Problem campaign, which includes over 20 nongovernmental organizations, has specifically called on BlackRock to vote against Wells Fargo Chairman Charles H. Noski for failing to implement plans consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5ºC. Under Noski’s leadership, Wells Fargo has poured $223 billion into fossil fuel industries in just the last five years.
In addition to today’s vote at Wells Fargo, activists are watching key votes that BlackRock will take over the next several weeks at corporations including ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and Barclays, among others.
Why are activists targeting BlackRock? BlackRock is the largest asset manager in the world. As such, it has huge power and influence in major corporations—including major polluters and their funders. That influence can make or break climate action. Activists are calling on BlackRock to use this power to fight climate change by voting out boards of directors at companies not acting fast enough on climate, and voting for shareholder resolutions that are critical for curbing the climate crisis.
Throughout the month of April, climate activists held demonstrations outside of BlackRock offices in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Boca Raton, Dallas, London, and Zurich, and will continue to do so. These actions included a giant eyeball projected onto BlackRock’s London offices with the messages “All Eyes on BlackRock” and “BlackRock Vote Climate Now.”. Over 80 people demonstrated at BlackRock’s headquarters in New York City. Photos from these actions are available here.
BlackRock’s Big Problem is a global network of NGOs, social movements, grassroots groups, and financial advocates that are pressuring asset managers like BlackRock to rapidly align their business practices with a climate-safe world.
Our network includes some of the most effective corporate campaigning groups in the US, UK, Europe, and around the world. We know that only by increasing pressure on customers, employees, peer companies, and in the media will these fossil fuel backers take the bold and visionary steps necessary to save humanity from the climate emergency.