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BlackRock is not 'woke', insists Larry Fink

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Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink waves as he leaves a meeting about climate action investments at the Elysee Palace - LUDOVIC MARIN/ AFP
Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink waves as he leaves a meeting about climate action investments at the Elysee Palace - LUDOVIC MARIN/ AFP

The chief executive of the world’s biggest money manager has denied claims his firm is “woke”, while warning that companies rolling back flexible working patterns after the pandemic “do so at their peril”.

Larry Fink of BlackRock used his annual letter to chief executives to deny accusations his firm has pushed a progressive political agenda, arguing that investors should focus on wider societal issues such as climate change.

“Stakeholder capitalism is not about politics. It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not ‘woke’. It is capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers, and communities your company relies on to prosper. This is the power of capitalism.”

Mr Fink also called on governments to provide guidance on sustainability policy and regulation because companies “can’t be the climate police. When we harness the power of both the public and private sectors, we can achieve truly incredible things.”

BlackRock has increased its assets under management to $10 trillion (£7.3 trillion) in the decade Mr Fink has been writing his annual missive, giving it significant stakes and influence in many of the world’s largest companies.

However, its chief has been criticised by conservative activists and politicians in the US over his support for environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing.

Last year, BlackRock was criticised by Consumers’ Research, a conservative think tank, for its “woke posturing" to hide the funnelling of money to Chinese companies through its investment funds.

In October, Republican senator Marco Rubio said plans by the Biden administration to allow companies to consider factors such as climate change and diversity issues when selecting employees’ pension plans was also “the latest example of how the political left works”.

He added: “They want to remake the entire country to comply with the latest woke agenda.”

In his annual letter, titled The Power of Capitalism, Mr Fink also warned bosses that the pre-pandemic world of work was gone.

He said no relationship has been changed more by the pandemic than the one between employers and employees, adding that workers demanding more from their employers is an “essential feature of effective capitalism”.

Mr Fink said: “As companies rebuild themselves coming out of the pandemic, CEOs face a profoundly different paradigm than we are used to. Companies expected workers to come to the office five days a week. Mental health was rarely discussed in the workplace. And wages for those on low and middle incomes barely grew.

“Companies not adjusting to this new reality and responding to their workers do so at their own peril.”

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