About: BlackRock is a large investment firm based in New York City.
- In 2014, BlackRock started a fossil free fund, which is valued at about $291,146,041.
- The NRDC invested $66 million of its own money into BlackRock’s Fossil Free fund in 2015.
- In recent years, BlackRock has engaged deeply with investor activists and progressive environmental groups to leverage fundamental changes in energy and environmental policy and market forces.
- In 2014, BlackRock teamed up with the NRDC on a market-based initiative that it said would usher in a novel but potentially revolutionary approach to environmental protection: a first-of-its-kind index fund for individuals and organizations looking to drop their investments in certain types of companies responsible for or whose products are related to greenhouse gas emissions (the index excludes companies engaged in the exploration and production of coal, gas and oil, and lists only companies that have undertaken efforts to reduce their carbon footprint).
- BlackRock’s partner NRDC has promoted claims that the energy industry has been deceiving the public about the dangers that carbon emissions pose to the climate.
- In progressive circles, the NRDC-BlackRock partnership has been lauded as a pioneering move offering an important tool for climate-conscious investors, including foundations, universities and publicly run pension funds.
- As CLW’s Chris Horner has written, public records show an effort by NRDC to use its relationships among staff at the New York State Comptroller’s office to lobby the Comptroller about divesting and reinvesting into BlackRock’s fossil free index – NRDC’s request was met with some internal ridicule despite the ham-fisted advocacy on its behalf by one former Sierra Club activist who is now on the inside.
- The Comptroller’s office granted the meeting, to the chagrin of Comptroller lawyers who warned that once the activists “start pitching a particular fund or manager or try to bring us to a specific investment opportunity to create some sort of critical mass, we could have an issue under our placement agent policy, not in the sense of a payment to the NRDC (which seems unlikely) but potentially the ‘other benefit’ they seek for their policy agenda… particular companies cannot be the subject of a ‘pitch’ by advocates or other not for profits.”
- The Comptroller’s Office began backing away after these warnings, suggesting that NRDC, in doing the bidding of its business partner, may have crossed the line from environmental activism to financial opportunism, particularly in light of the fact that both NRDC and BlackRock have been active in the attacks on the fossil fuel industry.
Sources:Reuters: “Exclusive: BlackRock vows new pressure on climate, board diversity,” by Ross Kerber (3/13/17) Washington Post: “Financial firms lead shareholder rebellion against ExxonMobil climate change policies,” by Steven Mufson (5/31/17)