BLACKROCK, INC. | Curtail Activities that Externalize Social and Environmental Costs

AGM date
Previous AGM date
Proposal number
4
Resolution details
Company ticker
BLK
Resolution ask
Adopt or amend a policy
ESG theme
  • Governance
ESG sub-theme
  • Environment
  • Social
Company sector
Financials
Company HQ country
United States
Resolved clause
Shareholders ask that, to the extent practicable, consistent with fiduciary duties, and otherwise legally and contractually permissible, the Company adopt stewardship practices designed to curtail corporate activities that externalize social and environmental costs that are likely to decrease the returns of portfolios that are diversified in accordance with portfolio theory, even if such curtailment could decrease returns at the externalizing company.
Supporting statement
Our Company is the world’s largest asset manager, with close to $10 trillion in assets under management, primarily weighted toward indexed strategies. In line with portfolio theory, most of its clients are likely to be broadly diversified.1 Overall return of the financial markets (beta) is the primary determinant of diversified investors’ return. Beta itself relies on a healthy economy, which in turn relies on healthy social and environmental systems. But those systems are at risk from corporate practices that reduce the value of the economy by externalizing social and environmental costs. In short, a company’s externalities harm its diversified shareholders, even if they do not harm the company itself.2 Given its market position, BlackRock’s stewardship activities—engaging with portfolio companies and voting their shares—could significantly improve beta by discouraging corporate practices that externalize costs. This would increase the portfolio value of BlackRock’s clients, and also increase the value of the assets it manages, thereby improving the returns of both its clients and shareholders. However, BlackRock’s social and environmental stewardship only focuses on improving individual company performance. BlackRock commits to engagement that supports companies[‘]… efforts to deliver… value to shareholders.3 In contrast, the Company’s stewardship policy does not address practices of a company that harm the global economy unless those practices also harm that company’s financial performance. Indeed, BlackRock says expressly that it does not tell management what to do.4 This appears to be the case even if doing so were necessary to protect commonly shared social and environmental resources from exploitation. Similarly, BlackRock asks companies to have business plans aligned with a net-zero economy and to be resilient in a scenario where warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius,5 but such standards focus on the ability of the company to operate successfully in a world that is addressing climate change. In contrast, there is no BlackRock policy requiring companies do their part to ensure those goals are met: that would be telling management what to do. Stewardship policies designed to directly support the health of social and environmental systems would promote the interests of the BlackRock’s clients and shareholders.

How other organisations have declared their voting intentions

Organisation name Declared voting intentions Rationale
LocalTapiola Asset Management Ltd For A vote FOR this proposal is warranted, as reporting on the external costs created by not accounting for environmental and social policy effects would allow shareholders to better assess the impact of the company's practices and management of related risks