Dear Larry Fink and Michelle Edkins,
To repeat a question posed by Al Gore: “Does BlackRock want to continue to finance the destruction of human civilization, or not?”
Back in 2019, eight U.S. Senators urged BlackRock to disclose its due diligence in regards to the deforestation wrought by the palm oil sector. Two months later, Liberian human rights attorney Alfred Brownell blasted BlackRock during his Goldman Prize acceptance speech for financing Golden Agri-Resources, a company responsible for vast rainforest destruction and human rights abuses. At your AGM in 2020, Amazonian Indigenous leaders challenged BlackRock to get its money out of Amazon destruction. In December of that year, you heard from eighteen Members of Congress urging the same thing – stop financing companies that are burning down the Amazon. Over the last several years, people ages 8 to 80 have held protests at BlackRock offices around the world, demanding you divest from fossil fuels and defund deforestation.
Don’t you think it's time BlackRock developed a policy to categorically address the deforestation risk in your portfolios?
Environmental and human rights impacts – and climate impacts above all – are increasingly recognized to drive material risks to investment. Your clients and beneficiaries know it. Governments from the US and the EU to Asia know it. And youth around the world have begun to see BlackRock for what it is – one of the largest investors in the destruction of their future.
You have joined the Climate Action 100+ and the Net Zero Asset Managers’ Initiative. You’ve done all the symbolic and rhetorical things – but in the face of ugly attacks from the fossil fuel-funded right wing, you’ve backtracked on your commitment to tackling climate risk as investment risk. BlackRock’s rhetoric has grown threadbare. Until BlackRock chooses to engage with the people truly impacted by the abuses of your investee companies, and until BlackRock adopts strong policies to defund deforestation – and fossil fuels – there is no reason to believe that BlackRock’s rhetoric about sustainability and social purpose has any merit whatsoever.
Leading responsible investment firms have begun to develop comprehensive policies to address deforestation risk, and you need to do the same. It is both a moral and an economic imperative, and you know it. You have tremendous power – and the world needs you to start using that power responsibly. I urge BlackRock to adopt a strong deforestation risk policy across all your portfolios.