It was the big one that many climate campaigners had been waiting for.
For years, one of the targets for campaigners leading the fossil fuel divestment campaign has been the asset management company BlackRock.
Pressure had been building on BlackRock for some time. And you can see why: the company controls some $7 trillion in assets and therefore is hugely influential in the financial sector.
As the New York Times has noted: if BlackRock shifted its stance on climate, it “could reshape how corporate America does business and put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit.”
In August 2018, Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock attended a summit at the Vatican along with other oil executives such as Bob Dudley, the CEO from BP, Darron Woods, the CEO from Exxon, as well as executives from Royal Dutch Shell, Norway’s Equinor, Pemex of Mexico, and ENI from Italy.
At a parallel event, Pope Francis told delegates “There is no time to lose,” adding that it was “important that serious efforts be made to transition to a greater use of energy sources that are highly efficient while producing low levels of pollution.”
Fast-forward a year to August 2019, where a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) found that BlackRock was still heavily investing in fossil fuels and “continued to ignore the serious financial risks of putting money into fossil fuel-dependent companies.”
The IEEFA calculated that due to BlackRock’s continuing investments in fossil fuels, there had been a whopping US$90 billion in value destruction and opportunity cost of the fund managers investments.
According to the report: “Out of BlackRock’s US$90 billion in estimated losses, 75% are due to its investments in four companies alone—ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP—which have all underperformed the market in the past decade.”
At the time, I wrote: “BlackRock may be wealthy, but that does not make it wise”.
Even last month, a British hedge fund manager, Christopher Hohn, accused BlackRock of “appalling” behavior for not requiring companies to disclose their sustainability efforts. According to the New York Times, Hohn said the firm’s previous efforts had been “full of greenwash.”
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