The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 1:00 am

Investment firm to alter approach

BlackRock to focus on climate change, sustainability

STAN CHOE | Associated Press

NEW YORK – A changing climate means dramatic risks for the world – and for investments too, the chief of the world's largest investment manager said Tuesday.

To prepare for and protect against those risks, BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink said in his influential annual letter to CEOs that his firm, which manages roughly $7 trillion for investors, will make a series of moves putting climate change and sustainability at the center of its investing approach.

Among them, BlackRock will cut out investments in some coal producers from some of its portfolios, sharply increase the number of sustainability-focused funds that it offers, and vote against companies at shareholder meetings when they're too slow in disclosing and mitigating their impact on the environment.

“Climate change has become a defining factor in companies' long-term prospects,” Fink wrote in his letter. He added that he believes “we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance” because of it.

Fink predicted that the changes in how capital is deployed will come “more quickly than we see changes to the climate itself,” and “sooner than most anticipate.”

In fact, the shift is already underway.

Investors poured a net $20.6 billion into sustainable funds across the industry last year, nearly quadruple the record set a year earlier, according to Morningstar. Investors, particularly younger ones, increasingly say that they want their money invested with an eye toward sustainability.

The total dollars are still small relative to the entire industry – investors plugged a total of $413.9 billion into all taxable bond funds last year, while yanking $41.3 billion out of all U.S. stock funds – but the trend is clear and accelerating.

Fearful of losing out on those dollars – and the fees that they produce – investment companies are rushing to meet the surging demand.

BlackRock and other huge asset managers are generally behind smaller competitors when it comes to sustainability, said Danielle Fugere, president of shareholder-advocacy group As You Sow.

BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard and others have been criticized for not doing more about the environment. Besides protests outside its Manhattan headquarters, BlackRock has also heard criticism from members of Congress who believe it could better address climate change.

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