Activists rallied outside 16 different global BlackRock offices during the second half of September, demanding stronger action on climate, deforestation, and Indigenous rights.
During the second half of September BlackRock was the subject of protests in 16 cities across the US and Europe, including many cities where BlackRock has never faced protest before like Miami, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Chicago, Geneva, Zurich, Berlin, Budapest, Athens, and Brussels.
The “September Swarm” culminated on Oct 2nd with bigger demonstrations in New York City, where photos from the actions were stuck to the Manhattan headquarters, and London, where a giant postcard of city action photos was delivered to office head Rachel Lord. In San Francisco, activists held a funeral outside the office to demand BlackRock stop investing in tar sands.
The activists had a serious message for BlackRock: you are failing your climate promises. In January, CEO Larry Fink made waves when he announced that BlackRock would be putting sustainability at the center of its business model and rolled out several big promises on climate. But nine months later, several new analyses have shown that BlackRock’s actions thus far have fallen far short of its big rhetoric, and activists have taken to the streets to hold Fink and BlackRock leadership accountable.
Four reports and tools were released in September that each highlighted a different way in which BlackRock isn’t living up to its climate talk.
A report from Majority Action demonstrated that BlackRock has yet to hold the boards of major emitters in the U.S. accountable or support key resolutions at companies that would have put climate at the center of its investment decisions. According to Majority Action, BlackRock had the worst climate voting record of any major asset manager in 2020.
A tool from Reclaim Finance and a coalition of international organizations found that, despite the fanfare it received for its coal exclusion policy in January, BlackRock scored a zero on all but one criteria on coal policy. In fact, the exclusion policy impacts less than 20% of the coal industry and only applies to a fraction of BlackRock’s investments.
A report from Influence Map showed that BlackRock is privately pushing back against and delaying climate finance rules in Europe. This seems especially egregious. How can BlackRock claim to lead the finance world toward climate action publicly while privately lobbying against ESG rules in Europe?
A report from Friends of the Earth and Amazon Watch found that BlackRock blocked significant policy change to protect forests at the companies driving global deforestation at every chance it had, and that BlackRock has no actual policies related to deforestation or agribusiness, two of the primary drivers of climate change.
On top of all this evidence of BlackRock’s failure, activists pointed out that while BlackRock has an, albeit weak, coal exclusion policy it has no policy on any other fossil fuel. So while it claims to be centering sustainability it’s also investing without hesitation in tar sands, arctic oil, gas, and more. It’s clear that BlackRock has a long way to go before it becomes the climate leader it claims to be.
There are many things BlackRock can and must do to become a true climate leader. Chief among them is expanding its coal exclusion policy to be a comprehensive fossil fuel exclusion policy, and to make fossil free funds its default product. The urgency of the climate crisis can’t wait for baby steps and climate activists certainly won’t back down because of them.
Protests were held at BlackRock offices in:
San Francisco, CA, 9.13
Palo Alto, CA 9.15
Boston, MA, 9.15
Los Angeles, CA 9.17
New York City, 9.17
Miami, FL, 9.25
Boca Raton, FL, 9.25
Paris, France, 9.27
Brussels, Belgium, 9.28
Zurich, Switzerland, 9.28
Geneva, Switzerland, 9.28
Budapest, Hungary, 9.30
London, UK, 10.2
New York City, NY, 10.2
San Francisco, CA, 10.2