A panel event featuring Clinton and Fink, as well as Unilever CEO Alan Jope and United Nations energy co-chair Damilola Ogunbiyi, highlighted the role of corporations in advancing a pivot to renewable energy through ESG, which has garnered criticism for mingling left-wing politics with generating profits for shareholders.
“I want to thank you for urging people to consider the social impact of their investments, and to try not to just go for a quick rate of return if it’s damaging to society,” Clinton told Fink, whose company manages over $8.5 trillion in assets.
BlackRock has taken “voting action on climate issues” against 53 of its portfolio companies in 2020 while putting 191 others “on watch,” according to its investment stewardship report. Jope remarked that his company adopted sustainability standards in an effort “led” by BlackRock — which currently maintains a 0.43% share in Unilever — and called the firm “one of the finest commentators on sustainability and what companies should be doing.”
Beyond arguing that firms should operate on behalf of stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, and community members in addition to their fiduciary responsibility toward shareholders, Clinton mentioned the need to decarbonize the global economy. “How are we going to get from where we are now to where we need to go?” the former commander-in-chief asked Fink.
“We’re seeing evidence every day that climate risk is investment risk,” Fink claimed, referring to the movement of crop production as a purported result of heat and droughts. “People are waking up to that, and that’s created this tectonic shift.”
The panel discussed slower rates of green energy adoption in the developing world, where residents rely upon fossil fuels at higher levels than citizens of developed nations. Fink called for “changing the charters” of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, both of which exist to stabilize the global economy in the case of financial crises, to accelerate decarbonization at a cost of $1 trillion per year.
“There’s huge pools of capital, but that capital is just not equipped to be taking the first loss piece,” Fink explained. “It’s up to the equity owners of these agencies — basically the G20 — and they have to have the desire to [be] doing this, instead of just the words.”
Fink also claimed that rising oil and gas prices are making renewable energy products, which are typically more costly to produce, comparatively less expensive. “We are certainly seeing the green premium shrink quite considerably. So the amount of investment dollars that are going into new decarbonization technology is accelerating.”
Members of the Biden administration have advanced a similar argument. “The more pain we are all experiencing from the high price of gas, the more benefit there is for those who can access electric vehicle[s],” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said two months ago, while Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm contended that “as long as our nation remains overly reliant on oil and fossil fuels, we will feel these price shocks again.”