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BlackRock Backed Climate Proposals, But Key Votes Are Yet to Come

The money manager’s first-quarter stewardship report shows that it’s been more willing to stand up to management, while activists are looking ahead.

BlackRock Headquarters Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

BlackRock Inc. disclosed that over the first three months of the year, it voted for a majority of shareholder proposals advocating sustainability-related changes at the companies whose shares it holds. But with key votes looming at major polluters, including oil heavyweight Exxon Mobil Corp., activists say that the firm’s true climate commitments haven’t yet been tested. 

Environmental advocates watch BlackRock’s voting practices closely, particularly as it’s ramped up its own focus on climate in the past two years. BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, carries considerable heft in corporate America, overseeing about $9 trillion in assets and sitting among the top five shareholders for about 99% of the S&P 500. The firm has been taking new measures to account for climate risks internally, and advocating for other companies where it’s a shareholder to do the same.