BlackRock CEO Larry Fink denounced criticism of the ESG movement and expressed skepticism toward supply chain resiliency efforts at the World Economic Forum.
During an interview on Tuesday in Davos, Switzerland, the asset management company executive remarked that disputes concerning environmental, social, and corporate governance investing have created significant controversy.
“I’m taking this very seriously,” he told Bloomberg News. “We are trying to address the misconceptions. It’s hard because it’s not business anymore, they’re doing it in a personal way. And for the first time in my professional career, attacks are now personal. They’re trying to demonize the issues.”
The reference to critics’ attempts to “demonize” the ESG movement comes days after Elon Musk quipped on social media that “the S in ESG stands for Satanic.” The billionaire entrepreneur formerly called the philosophy a “scam” that has been “weaponized by phony social justice warriors.”
Fink traveled to Switzerland for the conference days after his company announced plans to dismiss hundreds of employees following a $1.5 trillion loss in assets over the past year. BlackRock has witnessed extensive criticism from opponents of the ESG movement who argue that the investment philosophy compromises profit maximization for left-wing causes such as climate change and racial equity.
“Let’s be clear, the narrative is ugly, the narrative is creating this huge polarization,” Fink continued. “We are doing everything we can to change the narrative.”
Republican state treasurers have pulled some $12 billion from BlackRock over the past year, citing unnecessary risks to investments and vendettas against their fossil fuel sectors. The divestments constitute a fraction of the $8 trillion managed by the company but reflect broader market hesitancy toward ESG funds after a year of lackluster stock market performance.
Fink was among hundreds of corporate leaders who attended the World Economic Forum, an advocate of increased cooperation between public and private actors to enact policy agendas. He advanced the philosophy as he spoke on a panel about the future of global trade.
Fink asserted that private corporations should assume the role of battling climate change through investments as policymakers contend with the increased national debt.
“I believe there’s a greater need for governments to be working with the private sector, especially in the areas of infrastructure and decarbonization, because on the back of less fiscal flexibility, the need for private capital is greater than ever before,” he commented. “And the private capital is there, as long as they believe over the horizon of the investment the returns can be achieved.”
World Economic Forum President Børge Brende, the host of the panel, lauded the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act as two measures advanced by the Biden administration to bankroll renewable energy initiatives. Fink said he is “very optimistic” about the future of decarbonization in the United States.
The executive also argued that global trade fragmentation is occurring because countries are increasingly concerned about “national security” concerning their semiconductor and energy sectors.
“That phrase is being abused repeatedly, obviously for reasons like the war in Ukraine, but fragmentation is one of the causes of inflation,” he contended. “Now the idea with most corporations is creating resiliency. Resiliency means more inflation.”
Some have asserted, on the other hand, that heightened global supply chain interdependence in recent years increased the risk of worldwide economic fallout. Supply chains continue to see disruptions after government lockdowns, particularly in China and other Asian nations, prevented consumer and industrial goods from reaching advanced economies.