In the first major test of BlackRock Inc.’s commitment to use its vast influence and resources to fight climate change, the asset manager showed a capacity both for combativeness and restraint.
The $6.5 trillion firm said in a report on Tuesday it identified 244 companies during the 2020 annual proxy season that weren’t doing enough to either prepare their businesses for a warming planet or inform their investors about the possible risks to their operations from climate change. BlackRock voted against directors at 53 of the companies, or 22%, and said it will vote against directors at the remaining 191 next year if they fail to make significant progress over the coming 12 months.
BlackRock’s voting record at shareholder meetings provides the clearest indication yet on how it’s delivering on its January promise to put climate change concerns at the center of its strategy. While it isn’t a complete picture of how the New York-based firm is advancing sustainability and taking companies to task on environmental issues, the report offers some valuable insights into its willingness and capacity to challenge companies and push them to do better.
BlackRock rejected the election of directors at companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Volvo AB, for making “insufficient progress” on climate disclosures. It also voted against a number of more specific climate proposals, which asked companies for anything from extra reporting on corporate emissions to details of their lobbying activities, at companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Total SA.