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Larry Fink Defends Stakeholder Capitalism

Larry Fink Defends Stakeholder Capitalism

Companies thinking beyond profits isn’t “woke,” the BlackRock founder Larry Fink argued in his latest letter to Wall Street chiefs.

As the founder and C.E.O. of BlackRock, Larry Fink commands the attention of business leaders, thanks to the $10 trillion that his investment firm manages.

After years of pushing corporate America to look beyond profits and embrace a broader social purpose — which has attracted criticism from all corners — he is using his latest annual letter to C.E.O.s to clarify, and defend, his approach.

Stakeholder capitalism “is not woke,’” Fink wrote in the 3,300-word letter. “It is capitalism.”

It was a rebuke to those who say that BlackRock’s new focus on environmental, social and corporate governance concerns, known as E.S.G., is either bowing to anti-business interests or merely marketing. Reducing a company’s carbon footprint, for instance, ensures long-term viability, something investors and executives should care about, he wrote.

He again stressed that E.S.G. was crucial for BlackRock, after writing in 2020 that climate change would be a “defining factor” in its investment assessments. Failing key E.S.G. tests could lead BlackRock to sell its holdings in a company: “Access to capital is not a right,” Fink wrote.

He also rebutted criticism that BlackRock isn’t doing enough. Environmental groups have argued that the firm should divest its holdings in fossil-fuel producers, but he asserted that this alone wouldn’t get the world to net zero, and urged governments to step up their efforts. “Businesses can’t do this alone,” Fink wrote, “and they cannot be the climate police.”

One thing Fink didn’t address is pushback from the political right. Texas, for instance, passed a bill last year that would block the state’s agencies from doing business with financial firms, like BlackRock, if they were to “boycott energy companies.”

(To date, Texas hasn’t cut off BlackRock.) Fink said BlackRock would give individual investors the ability to vote their shares on corporate matters, something Republican lawmakers and others have urged, arguing that the firm has too much influence.

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