Earlier this month, Larry Fink’s Annual Letter for 2023 was news. In previous years he wrote two separate letters – one to CEOs and one to shareholders. This year, he realized both groups face the same issues/concerns so he wrote a single letter to both. Many observers noted that the terms “ESG” and “diversity” were missing. That seemed to be a big deal to some but if you actually read the letter, the omission didn’t seem particularly important. At least I didn’t think so.
Now the 2023 BlackRock Investment Stewardship (BIS) Engagement Priorities are available and guess what term is missing? Yep – “ESG.” But guess what else? That doesn’t really matter because the firm is not changing its ESG priorities and engagement strategies for its holdings. The document avoids the generic term “ESG,” instead discussing specific components of climate risk management, human capital/human rights and corporate governance. BIS’ engagement priorities are:
- Board quality and effectiveness
- Strategy, purpose, and financial resilience
- Incentives aligned with financial value creation
- Climate and natural capital
- Company impacts on people
I agree with other commentators that politicization (or really, “weaponization”) of the term ESG is pushing many companies to eliminate the term from communications/messaging. Tomorrow, I’ll explain why that might ironically be a really good thing for ESG and ways you can consider pivoting your communications in a meaningful way.
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