What’s at stake for BlackRock on climate in 2022 - BlackRock's Big Problem

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  • What’s at stake for BlackRock on climate in 2022

    In his 2022 letter to CEOs, we learned Larry Fink is not being the leader we need him to be on climate.

    Last week, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink released his annual letter to CEOs. Since Fink’s first letter that addressed climate change in 2020, confronting climate change has become a central theme in his public rhetoric and in BlackRock’s marketing. In his 2020 letter, Fink pledged to put sustainability at the center of BlackRock’s business, which was a very exciting step for the world’s biggest financial institution at the time. In 2021, he announced BlackRock’s commitment to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, another exciting step–but he still hasn’t detailed how BlackRock would get there. This year, he released only a letter to CEOs despite typically pairing it with a letter to BlackRock clients. And the letter to CEOs didn’t include any of the firm commitments needed to move BlackRock and the economy toward the sustainable future we need.

    We were disappointed to see Fink acknowledging the need for decarbonization without actually taking any concrete steps toward lower emissions, and in fact claiming continued use of fossil fuel is necessary while ignoring that climate science and the International Energy Agency make clear that we need to immediately end all fossil fuel expansion. Fink has stepped up to the plate on climate, but this letter was a foul ball when we all need to be hitting confident home runs.  

    It’s notable that BlackRock hasn’t made any concrete decarbonization policies since Fink introduced a lackluster thermal coal exclusion policy in his 2020 letter. To date, a 2030 emissions reduction target that BlackRock pledged to release by the end of last year has not been published. Activists around the world have been pressuring BlackRock to act for years, but it seems that Fink is now dragging his feet. 

    The truth is, there is a massive question that BlackRock needs to answer: what will it do about the companies it invests in that are expanding fossil fuels? Larry Fink’s 2022 letter to CEOs naively claimed BlackRock would “engage” with these companies on climate. But unless BlackRock is willing to withhold investment dollars from companies that won’t transition, its attempts to engage with oil and gas companies will likely fail. The fossil fuel industry has no real plans to transition. They want to profit from oil, gas, and coal for as long as possible. And as long as BlackRock is a major investor in these companies, it is complicit in these climate crimes. It’s time for BlackRock to demonstrate that it’s firmly on the side of science. That means showing that it understands the urgency of the crisis, not just saying it does.

    Just weeks after Fink shared the stage with global leaders at the climate conference in Glasgow, news broke that BlackRock had made a deal which acquired 49% of Saudi Aramco’s gas pipeline subsidiary, thereby handing billions to one of the industry’s biggest oil & gas expansionists. You can’t be a true climate leader while profiting massively off of fossil fuels. Plain and simple.

    We know BlackRock can change, and we’ve seen pressure from activists, industry insiders, and impacted communities push Fink from complete silence to someone who claims to want to lead the finance industry toward sustainability. Now we need to see BlackRock release additional concrete climate policies, and soon. We’re hopeful that Fink will expand on the rhetoric in his letter to CEOs and follow it with concrete commitments that will shift BlackRock’s business to address the reality and urgency of the climate crisis. In the meantime, we’re wondering where Fink really stands on climate now. It seems like BlackRock is trying to appease all sides, including those who will lock us into decades of fossil fuels and drive us off the climate cliff. 

    Fink often says that governments need to do more on climate and work together with corporations to tackle the crisis, and he’s right. But what he leaves out is his own level of influence over the very actors he’s claiming need to do more. If he really believes that’s the solution then he should be lobbying for comprehensive climate legislation and financial reform. We would welcome that!

    The global climate movement is large, diverse, and growing. Whether we live among corn fields or high rises, forests or freeways, we all want our families to grow up healthy and thrive for generations to come. But BlackRock’s continued investment in fossil fuels threatens all of us.

    More and more people from all walks of life are getting engaged and holding accountable those who profit from and drive climate destruction. Fink has the opportunity to make the type of tangible impact on the climate crisis that few in the world can. If Fink doesn’t rise to the occasion, we will continue to hold BlackRock’s feet to the fire and demand real action.

    Photo by Erik McGregor

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