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Nuns take on BlackRock over climate emergency

Rob Davies
Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

An investment fund representing 9,000 nuns hascriticised the multitrillion-dollar investment group BlackRock for failing to combat the climate crisis.

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas called on the world’s largest asset manager, which has $7tn (£5.25tn) of assets, to use its clout to coax companies into moving faster to reduce emissions.

The intervention, via their Mercy Investment Services fund, adds to mounting pressure on globally powerful asset owners to think more radically on climate issues.

Mercy Investment Services filed a joint shareholder motion with a group of investors before BlackRock’s annual meeting.

“We believe it is BlackRock’s fiduciary responsibility to review how climate change quantitatively impacts […] portfolio companies, evaluate how specific shareholder resolutions on climate may impact shareholder value, and vote accordingly,” the group said.

The motion points out that in 2019 BlackRock gave support to just six out of 52 climate-related resolutions tabled at company shareholder meetings.

These included calls for more detailed disclosures about carbon emissions and the adoption of greenhouse gas reduction targets, according to the Financial Times.

It said BlackRock’s voting record appeared to be “inconsistent with its statements about climate change”, a reference to the asset manager’s own research about its financial risks.

A group of investors withdrew a similar motion in 2017 after engagement from the company. Other asset managers have fielded similar motions, including from members of the same group of investors.

But BlackRock has been singled out over its record on climate change, including by a group of economists who said the investment group had lost an estimated $90bn over the last decade by ignoring the financial risk of fossil fuel investment.

A BlackRock spokesperson said it had spoken to 370 companies on environmental matters. “Where companies have not responded to our engagement or where we do not see sufficient progress and attention to climate risk over time, BlackRock Investment Stewardship continues to vote against directors and, where relevant, for shareholder proposals,” the spokesperson said.