Investment giant BlackRock issued an investment stewardship report, highlighting the firm’s increased activity in promoting sustainability improvements in its portfolio companies.
In a letter to CEOs early this year, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink announced concrete actions the investment manager would be taking on advancing ESG issues, and on moving sustainability into an integral role in portfolio construction and management. BlackRock’s new report highlights the progress the company has been making in these efforts, including becoming more active in company engagement, and, where necessary, using its voting power to promote change.
According to the BlackRock report:
“While we have been speaking with companies for years on sustainability issues, our investment stewardship team has intensified its focus and dialogue this year with companies facing material sustainability-related risks. Our approach on climate issues, in particular, is to focus our efforts on sectors and companies where climate change poses the greatest material risk to our clients’ investments. ‘Climate risk’ may include a company’s ability to compete in a world that has transitioned to a low-carbon economy (transition risk), for example, or the way climate change could impact its physical assets or the areas where it operates (physical climate risk).”
So far this year, BlackRock reports it has identified 244 companies that it has evaluated as making insufficient progress integrating climate risk into their business models or disclosures. Of these, BlackRock has taken voting action against 53, while the remaining 191 companies remain “on watch,” risking future voting action against management if sufficient progress is not made. Companies that BlackRock voted against were primarily in high-carbon sectors, with 37 in Energy, 7 Utilities, and the remainder in Industrials, Materials and Financials.
BlackRock indicated that it has significantly increased company engagement on sustainability topics, reporting 3,020 engagements over the past year, an increase of 47% over the same period last year. According to the company, “In our direct dialogue with company leadership, we seek to understand how a company’s strategy, operations and long-term performance would be affected by the transition to a low-carbon economy and other climate risks.”
While the report focuses largely on climate issues, BlackRock points out that it is engaged on a wide range of sustainability issues, including other environmental issues, such as sustainable practices in agribusiness, human capital management, diversity and inclusion. BlackRock has also advocated for greater transparency on sustainability issues, promoting the use of the TCFD framework and SASB standards by companies in their reporting.