BlackRock support for ESG proposals plummets as backlash grows

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

BlackRock supported considerably fewer shareholder proposals around ESG in the 2022-2023, its latest report shows.

In its role as an investment steward, BlackRock supported only 26 shareholder proposals related to climate and company impacts on people, around 7% of the total.

This was a considerable fall from the year before, when BlackRock supported 22%, and the year before that when the firm supported 47%.

This came as the number of proposals around these areas rose 34% in the same period, which BlackRock attributed to growing shareholder activity in the US.

BlackRock and other asset managers face pressure from both the right and left on ESG issues.

In the US, ESG investing has been heavily criticised by Republican politicians such as Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida. The argument is that taking ESG factors into account violates asset managers’ responsibility to maximise returns for clients.

On the other hand, firms are being heavily criticised by green activists for their continued investment in fossil fuel companies. This month saw authors threaten to boycott the Edinburgh International Book Festival, demanding that sponsor Baillie Gifford divest from fossil fuel companies.

BlackRock emphasised that the lower numbers of approvals were due to the declining quality of proposals.

Joud Abdel Majeid, Global Head of Investment Stewardship, said: “We observed a greater number of overly prescriptive proposals or ones lacking economic merit. Importantly, the majority of these proposals failed to recognise the companies are already meeting their asks.”

“Because so many proposals were over-reaching, lacking economic merit, or simply redundant, they were unlikely to help promote long-term shareholder value and received less support from shareholders, including BlackRock, than in years past.”


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