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BlackRock expands defense against Republican ESG pushback

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 10/8/2022 Zachary Halaschak
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BlackRock launched another effort to push back against those that contend the firm is “boycotting” the energy industry after some red states have penalized the firm for its ESG push.

The firm, which is the world’s largest money manager, launched a webpage on Friday committed to “setting the record straight” about how it handles investment decisions and disclosure and its pursuit of environmental, social, and governance standards, also known as ESG. The launch comes just days after Louisiana announced it is divesting all its Treasury funds from BlackRock.

“The energy industry plays a crucial role in the economy, and, on behalf of our clients, BlackRock has invested $170 billion in U.S. public energy companies,” the webpage reads. “We are also partnering with energy companies and start-ups to fund new technology and innovations that will power the global economy, now and in the future.”

While BlackRock and its CEO Larry Fink have been accused of trying to harm the energy industry, BlackRock contends that it merely asks companies to provide disclosures on material issues that affect their businesses so that investors can appraise risks, such as climate change, and make informed financial decisions.


“We believe that companies that better manage their exposure to climate risk and capitalize on opportunities will generate better long-term financial outcomes,” the company said.

BlackRock claims its views on climate risk aren’t unique, and its new webpage notes that an overwhelming majority of companies in the S&P 500 publish sustainability reports.

This isn’t the first effort that BlackRock has launched to defend its image as it relates to ESG standards. In June, the company launched an advertising campaign called “about BlackRock” that sought to emphasize its mission and rebut the notion that it is a “woke” investment firm looking to create social change rather than generate profit.

“This initiative will be a sustained effort over the coming weeks and months aimed at telling our story to a broader audience to help them understand what BlackRock does,” said Dalia Blass, global head of external affairs, and co-Chief Marketing Officer Alex Craddock in a memo to staff obtained by the Washington Examiner.

Several states have launched efforts to root out ESG, with 19 GOP attorneys general sending a letter to Fink, who is increasingly becoming a Republican target, challenging the money manager’s commitment to ESG principles. They claimed that BlackRock’s policies are undercutting shareholder profits in managing state pension funds.

Louisiana went even further this week, with State Treasurer John Schroder announcing that the state has divested $560 million, a number that will increase to $794 million over the coming months as Louisiana exits BlackRock money market funds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded fund holdings.

“Your blatantly anti-fossil fuel policies would destroy Louisiana’s economy,” Schroder said in a letter to Fink. “This divestment is necessary to protect Louisiana from actions and policies that would actively seek to hamstring our fossil fuel sector. In my opinion, your support of ESG investing is inconsistent with the best economic interests and values of Louisiana.”

Fink is seen as a leader in the movement to shift away from the traditional shareholder model of capitalism toward stakeholder capitalism, which bucks the notion that the sole purpose of a financial institution is to serve its shareholders and return value and rather also focuses value also on customers, employees, suppliers, and communities.

BlackRock, and Fink in particular, have emerged as sort of the symbolic punching back for Republicans targeting the ESG movement.

Earlier this year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) even levied some of the blame for the country’s high gas prices on Fink’s “woke” push for more corporate involvement in combating climate change.

“There’s a Larry Fink surcharge every time you fill up your tank. You can thank Larry for the massive and inappropriate [environmental, social, and governance] pressure,” Cruz said on CNBC. “What Larry Fink is doing has been unprecedented in the rise of ESG.”

Consumers’ Research, a conservative nonprofit organization, has been engaged in a monthslong multimillion-dollar campaign to criticize the firm and paint it and Fink as bad actors who embrace China and environmental justice priorities over the U.S. and shareholder returns.

The group even placed a mobile billboard attacking the firm outside the National Association of State Treasurers' annual convention last month.

Schroder acknowledged that BlackRock did try to push back against the anti-ESG movement behind the scenes during the NAST convention.

“While I appreciate the meeting and look forward to further discussion, I found that the statements your representatives made contradicted most of the public messaging I have read in your annual letters to CEOs or heard you say in the media,” he said in the letter to Fink.


Blass, BlackRock’s head of external affairs, has also pushed back on state efforts to curb BlackRock. She said in a letter to the group of 19 attorneys general that climate change is becoming a major risk and that investors and clients want to be apprised of the risks in order to achieve better returns.

“Governments representing over 90% of global GDP have committed to move to net-zero in the coming decades,” said Blass. “We believe investors and companies that take a forward-looking position with respect to climate risk and its implications for the energy transition will generate better long-term financial outcomes. These opportunities cut across the political spectrum.”


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Tags: ESG, BlackRock, Larry Fink, Climate Change, Energy and Environment

Original Author: Zachary Halaschak

Original Location: BlackRock expands defense against Republican ESG pushback


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