Monday 16 December 2019 4:30 pm

Nuns join chorus of criticism against Blackrock over climate change

The world’s biggest fund manager has come under fire from an unusual critic: nuns.

A group of Catholic nuns has hit out at Blackrock over its approach to climate change, voicing its anger ahead of the fund’s annual meeting.

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The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, which represents 9,000 nuns, has singled out Blackrock by calling on it to review its portfolio of investments and do more to encourage firms to reduce emissions.

The move comes in the wake of growing criticism over Blackrock’s climate change credentials, which have been questioned by the likes of hedge fund manager Sir Christopher Hohn.

Hohn said “major asset managers like BlackRock have been shown to be full of greenwash”, adding that BlackRock’s record on voting for climate-related shareholder resolutions was “appalling”, in comments first reported by the FT.

Mercy Investment Services, the fund acting on behalf of the nuns, has filed a motion in which it says Blackrock’s voting practices “appear inconsistent with its statements about climate change”.

According to the FT, Mercy Investment Services said that in 2019 BlackRock supported only six of 52 climate-related resolutions, such as requests for enhanced disclosure of carbon emissions or those calling for an adoption of greenhouse gas reduction goals.

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“We believe it is BlackRock’s fiduciary responsibility to review how climate change quantitatively impacts […] portfolio companies, evaluate how specific shareholder resolutions on climate may impact shareholder value, and vote accordingly,” the group said.

In 2017 a similar resolution was filed before being withdrawn after Blackrock engaged with shareholders.

Such proposals have also been filed with other public asset managers in recent years.

A BlackRock spokesperson said: “We share the concerns of the Sisters of Mercy and others about climate risk and its impact on shareholder value for all companies, and we look forward to meeting with the Sisters to discuss their concerns.

“Indeed, we believe evidence of the impact of climate risk is building rapidly and we are accelerating our engagement with companies on this critical issue”.