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For Immediate Release

Contact

Ginny Cleaveland, Deputy Press Secretary, Fossil-Free Finance, Sierra Club, ginny.cleaveland@sierraclub.org

Press Release

Blackrock’s Weakened Support for Climate Proposals Is an Abdication of Leadership

Annual report on shareholder engagement shows world’s largest asset manager voted on fewer environmental, social proposals this year
WASHINGTON -

The world’s largest asset manager BlackRock has released its annual report on shareholder season engagement, outlining its weakened support for proposals on environmental and social issues in a move that the Sierra Club calls an “abdication of leadership” for failing to engage with the banks and fossil fuel companies that are largely responsible for driving the climate crisis. 

Read more in the Financial Times: BlackRock pulls back support for climate and social resolutions

“As climate disasters worsen, BlackRock’s weakened support for climate resolutions at some of the world’s largest companies — including the banks and fossil fuels companies largely responsible for driving our climate crisis – is a disappointing abdication of leadership at a crucial time,” said Ben Cushing, Campaigner Manager with the Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign. “Talking about climate risk is cheap if it’s not backed by action to hold the riskiest companies accountable.”

This spring, major U.S. banks faced a slew of shareholder resolutions calling for credible plans that outline how they plan to achieve their long-term climate commitments, largely due to concerns over how the banks will meet those pledges if they continue to finance new fossil fuel infrastructure. The resolutions echoed calls by the International Energy Agency stating that in order for the world to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, “there is no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply.”

BlackRock said in May that it would be voting on fewer of those environmental and social proposals, despite commitments from its CEO, Larry Fink, just two years prior stating that the company aimed to put climate change and sustainability at the center of its business model. In its May memo, BlackRock argued that many resolutions were more prescriptive than in previous years. However, the question of whether these resolutions were overly “micromanaging” was asked and answered when the US Securities and Exchange Commissions rejected calls from banks to block shareholders from voting on their proposals.

BlackRock’s support for directors seeking re-election held steady from previous years, despite other major asset managers like State Street admitting that “voting on the election of directors at annual general meetings is a much more powerful way to hold corporates accountable.”

“If BlackRock won’t vote for what it calls ‘prescriptive’ resolutions, then Larry Fink must do more to hold directors accountable for failing to align their business strategies with the Paris Agreement,” said Jessye Waxman, Senior Campaign Representative with the Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign. “BlackRock’s votes against directors at companies that continue to drag their feet on climate should, at minimum, be increasing year-over-year until companies are 1.5C aligned. Instead, Blackrock's voting record sends a troubling signal it is not willing to truly hold companies accountable to manage climate risk.”

The 2022 Banking on Climate Chaos report authored by the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, and other groups is a comprehensive global analysis on fossil fuel banking that underscores the disparity between banks’ public commitments versus the business-as-usual financing of the fossil fuel industry. It documents that in the six years since the Paris Agreement was adopted, the world’s 60 largest private banks financed fossil fuels with USD $4.6 trillion, with $742 billion in 2021 alone. 

Overall fossil fuel financing remains dominated by four U.S. banks, with JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America together accounting for one quarter of all fossil fuel financing identified over the last six years. BlackRock is one of the largest shareholders at all of these US banks. 

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The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world.

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