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BlackRock to keep questioning boards on 'material' climate risks

FILE PHOTO: The BlackRock logo is pictured in New York City

By Simon Jessop and Ross Kerber

LONDON/BOSTON (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc, the world's largest asset manager, said on Thursday it would continue to push companies for details on how they treat "material" climate-related risks, despite criticism from some U.S. politicians for its stance on the energy transition.

The comments continue BlackRock's attempt to walk a middle line between Republicans who say it has overemphasized environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in investing, and shareholder activists and other investors who say the $8.6 trillion asset manager should push companies harder to address climate issues.

In a statement on the priority areas it will focus on in talks with companies at the start of the season for annual company meetings, BlackRock said while it had refined some language it uses, nothing substantive had changed.


Specifically, it would focus its engagements with portfolio companies on topics like on board quality and effectiveness; a company's strategy, purpose and financial resilience; executive incentives; climate-related risks and natural capital; and a company's impact on people, particularly its workers. Those talks can inform BlackRock's proxy voting decisions.

"There are no material changes in our approach to these themes, and our engagement with companies will continue the dialogue on material risks and opportunities relevant to their business models and sectors that we had in 2022," it said.

It said that environmental issues it would consider include "water use, land use, waste management and climate risk."

The statements were in line with recent comments by BlackRock Chief Executive Laurence Fink in his recent annual letter. Fink said BlackRock has been vocal in seeking company disclosures about their plans to navigate the energy transition, but that "it’s not our place to be telling companies what to do."

(Reporting by Simon Jessop in London and by Ross Kerber in Boston)