In 2017, the two biggest U.S.-based fund managers, BlackRock and Vanguard — which control a combined $12 trillion in assets — both voted to require Exxon Mobil to produce a report on climate change. It was a seen as watershed moment showing what can occur when the biggest index funds punch their weight at the annual meetings of corporations, and join other shareholders in supporting proxy proposals covering social issues.
Until it wasn’t the watershed everybody thought it was.
Since that 2017 vote, multiple analyses of proxy votes have shown BlackRock and Vanguard to have among the worst voting records when it comes to social issues supported by other shareholders, including many of their peers among the world’s largest asset managers.
Among 48 large fund companies that Ceres included in its review of up-or-down votes on climate-related shareholder proposals from the 2018 proxy season, Vanguard finished 42nd (voting for climate proposals 12 percent of the time), and BlackRock finished 43rd (voting in favor of these resolutions 10 percent of the time).