Blackrock has gone from being known as the largest asset manager in the world to being known as the investment company that pushes a social agenda on the companies it invests in. From cajoling corporate America into signing the manifesto of stakeholder capitalism, the Business Roundtable Statement on Corporate Responsibility, to putting anti-oil board members on the board of oil companies, Blackrock has developed a reputation, at least among conservatives, as a company that is imposing CEO Larry Fink’s social agenda on American capitalism.
In fact, the reputational issue is so prevalent that Fink spent much of the recent annual report rebutting it, arguing that what he is practicing is simply capitalism and that the imposition of climate change minimization measures and other ESG issues relevant to stakeholders is simply capitalism. The standard arguments here are that practicing ESG is not politics but rather risk management. Typically ESG proposals talk about reputational risk or the risk that at some point in the future governments will embrace the values expressed in ESG circles and impose them involuntarily on businesses. In such cases, for example, fossil fuel companies will be stuck with “stranded assets”, i.e. oil and gas wells rendered worthless by the coming age of enlightened energy regulation.Read More