While hearts are breaking around the world for the loss of the Amazon, some are turning attention to the financial firms backing Brazil's deforestation, including BlackRock.
"We may be witnessing the tragedy of our lifetimes with the Amazon rainforest in flames and in peril.", our partners at Amazon Watch wrote this week.
While Brazil's far right President Bolsonaro ludicrously blamed NGO's for starting the 80,000+ fires burning this week, he's made his five pronged agenda to destroy the Amazon very clear: attack Indigenous land rights, invade Indigenous territories, dismantle environmental institutions, dispense with environmental licensing, and support agribusiness and mining in the Amazon.
And while the massive attention is spurring many to take action - including at this fast growing petition - many wonder what they can do to save the "lungs of the world".
Bolsonaro is not acting alone, and some of his biggest backers are in the US.
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, is a key financier of the agribusiness giants most implicated in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
BlackRock is in the top ten - and often the top five - of institutional investors holding shares in all the agribusiness giants that are publicly traded. According to Amazon Watch's 2019 research, BlackRock holds over $2.5 billion of shares in these companies, including over 5% of available shares in ADM and Bunge; finance researchers call ownership above 5% of all shares ‘blockholding’ and generally assume it to imply significant influence over corporate governance.
BlackRock has supported the Paris Climate Accord and its CEO, Larry Fink, has been dubbed the “conscience of Wall Street”.
Yet BlackRock’s statement after Brazil’s election appears to celebrate Bolsonaro’s win, lauding his commitment “to building on the reform agenda put in place over the past two years.” And since Bolsonaro’s election BlackRock seems to look with even greater favor on the administration; Fink lauded the “significant opportunities” to be found for investors in Brazil, and announced the expansion of the firm’s operations in the country.
This doublespeak on Brazil, agribusiness, and climate action are why Amazon Watch joined the BlackRock’s Big Problem campaign - BlackRock has a big climate and human rights problem.
Those wishing to hold someone accountable for the destruction are increasingly looking towards US based BlackRock.
As one of the largest investors in Brazil’s agribusiness industry, BlackRock should not be encouraging further forest destruction. It must divest from companies that continue these horrendous practices.
Petition demanding BlackRock stop their assault on the Amazon rainforest
Case study on BlackRock's role in Amazon destruction from oil and gas to agribusiness
Complicity in Destruction: How northern consumers and financiers enable Bolsonaro's assault on the Brazilian Amazon (report from Amazon Watch)