When Larry Fink announced in mid-January he’d be putting solving the climate emergency at the center of his US$7.43 trillion investment company BlackRock’s strategy, even long-time critics acknowledged it was a huge deal. “It takes leadership and a certain kind of courage to admit that change is needed,” wrote Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune at CNBC. “Now we must keep the pressure on.”
BlackRock had earlier stated a commitment to “sustainability,” yet for years faced pressure from the Sierra Club and others over its investments in fossil fuels and Amazon deforestation. In a letter last month to shareholders, Fink promised measurable change: BlackRock would no longer invest in companies deriving 25% or more of their revenues from thermal coal.
Shortly after, however, the environmental and human rights group Urgewald calculated that less than 20% of the coal industry would be affected. “The scope of the policy is still far too limited and further steps will need to follow quickly,” it argued.
In January, CEO Larry Fink announced that BlackRock would make the environment a key consideration in shaping its investment policy. Photo courtesy of BlackRock, Inc.
This is a familiar cycle these days: A large company makes an impressive-sounding climate commitment, but on closer inspection the reality ends up being messier and less inspiring than it first appeared. For example: Microsoft pledges to go “carbon negative” by 2030, removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits, while donating to the election campaign of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, who has questioned the science of climate change and has a 7% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters.
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