BlackRock chief calls on CEOs to act for good of society
By Agence France-Presse
The head of the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, has called on corporate leaders to act for the betterment of society or risk losing the investment giant’s support.
In a letter to chief executives, BlackRock CEO and co-founder Laurence Fink said companies that failed to set and pursue clear goals on the environment, workforce diversity and training and technological change would “ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders.”
With more than $6 trillion in assets under management, BlackRock is the world’s largest investor in publicly held companies.
Fink’s message may run counter to the views of companies in which BlackRock is invested and which believe their overriding goal is merely to deliver returns to investors.
Like other investment managers, BlackRock in the past has faced criticism for failing to hold corporate leaders to account on matters of corporate governance and hot-button social issues.
But, in a letter dated Friday, Fink said companies without a clearly articulated purpose would be vulnerable to short-term earnings pressures “and in the process sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation and capital expenditures that are necessary for long-term growth.”
This would leave the companies exposed to more sharply articulated, if near-sighted, activist campaigns and ultimately harm results, he said.
To sustain performance, “you must also understand the societal impact of your business as well as the ways that broad, structural trends — from slow wage growth to rising automation to climate change — affect your potential for growth,” Fink wrote.
“Companies must ask themselves: What role do we play in the community? How are we managing our impact on the environment? Are we working to create a diverse workforce? Are we adapting to technological change?”
BlackRock will double the size of its investment stewardship team over the next three years and directly engage with companies, favoring corporate boards that show greater ethnic and gender diversity as well as varied career experiences and perspectives among members, Fink said.