Blackrock – unfortunately the poster child for the ESG/anti-ESG struggle – recently made changes that may pique the interest of both sides. First, the company announced a change in language:
“‘transition investing,’ which is BlackRock’s newly preferred term for ESG investing, the firm said.”
In another interesting announcement, the company appointed
“Chief Executive Officer of the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (‘Aramco’), one of the world’s largest integrated energy companies, to BlackRock’s Board of Directors… Amin Hassan Ali Nasser, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aramco, joins the Board today as an independent director.”
That is already bringing jeers and criticism. There there is the move by the firm to give retail investors in its biggest exchange traded fund the chance to participate in proxy voting in 2024. Financial Times explained that BlackRock is “experimenting with ways to involve ordinary investors in voting on shareholder proposals at a time when their collective influence on US companies has come under fire from both left and right.”
In theory, this sounds great but the ever-humorous Matt Levine had this to say:
“The idea is that BlackRock gives you a menu of voting policies, and you choose one, and then BlackRock applies that policy to do the actual voting on the (hundreds and hundreds) of proposals that the fund votes on… Really what BlackRock should do is partner with some unexpected Republicans to roll out some new proxy voting policies…The Vivek Ramaswamy Anti-Woke Policy. The Kid Rock Proxy Voting Policy. You don’t need to limit yourself to anti-ESG Republicans, either. The Greta Thunberg Voting Policy. The Amin Nasser Voting Policy! The Taylor Swift Voting Policy. The Mr. Beast Voting Policy.”
My colleague Meredith Ervine at TheCorporateCounsel.net suggested to me The Leonardo DiCaprio Voting Policy.
Some of these moves could be seen as bowing to anti-ESG pressure. Yet it is doubtful these actions will be viewed by anti-ESG states as adequate to remove them from lists of blacklisted financial services firms. Perhaps the bigger question is what will happen to the term “ESG”?