Paris, 30 June 2021 Asset management titan BlackRock has come under renewed fire for its attempts to influence the European Union’s climate finance plans, in a new report by Reclaim Finance and the Observatoire des Multinationales, The report, released today, maps out a ‘lobbying web’ employed by BlackRock “with the aim of preventing robust regulation”, and comes shortly before the publication of a controversial report written by BlackRock on environmental banking regulations, commissioned by the bloc (1).

Using new analysis to expose BlackRock’s unseen role at the heart of a formidable lobbying machine, the findings show how BlackRock has played a leading role in a network of at least 23 trade associations, groups, and think tanks. Altogether, these groups have spent approximately €30million a year on lobbying EU institutions, leading the opposition to a ‘taxonomy of polluters’ (2) and advocating for a climate strategy based on voluntary mechanisms.

The report will raise further questions about BlackRock’s influence over the EU’s long-awaited strategy on sustainable finance, itself to be published next week (3). The awarding of the banking report has hit the headlines in recent months after the European Ombudsman found that the EU ‘did not properly consider conflicts of interest’ in awarding them the work.

Lara Cuvelier, Sustainable Investments Campaigner at Reclaim Finance, said: “Our report reveals that the European Commission has allowed its climate finance plans to be taken over by the mother of all corporate lobbyists. As we detail, BlackRock sits at the heart of a web of trade associations, lobby groups and backroom meetings working towards one end: ensuring light-touch regulation of the financial sector on climate.”

BlackRock holds senior positions in six of these groups, such as ICMA, EFAMA, and Bruegel, which the report’s authors argue is evidence of their decisive role in setting the lobbying agenda. This has included some notable successes in watering down climate finance regulation, such as pushing for the standards in the EU’s green bonds scheme to remain voluntary. BlackRock has also been given nine contracts with EU institutions since 2016.

Olivier Petitjean of the Observatoire des Multinationales, said: “BlackRock’s lobbying offensive is already paying dividends, having succeeded in watering down climate finance regulation, such as pushing for the standards in the EU’s green bonds scheme to remain voluntary. BlackRock has certainly got its foot in the door, having signed nine contracts with EU institutions since 2016, but the banking contract represents a new degree of influence, since it is now explicitly tasked with helping to design EU regulations.”

The report also shows the ties that BlackRock has built up with EU officials and affiliated organisations. It details 24 meetings with the European Commission related to sustainable finance and the recruitment of former EU and IMF officials to senior positions. Finally, the authors point to BlackRock’s roles in multiple experts or working groups organized by the Commission, including groups giving advice on climate finance issues, such as the High-Level Forum on Capital Markets Union (4).

BlackRock’s motivation for resisting robust regulation, the authors argue, lies partially in its fossil fuel interests (5), which allegedly drive its ‘50 shades of green’ approach.

Cuvelier concluded: “Larry Fink did not have a Damascene conversion to the cause of climate action; rather, BlackRock has been working overtime to ensure that the EU doesn’t adopt regulation which would damage its interests, above all in fossil fuels. As it prepares to release its sustainable finance strategy, the Commission must maintain an ambitious climate plan based on the demands of science, not lobbyists.”

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The report is entitled ‘Hijacked: Exposing BlackRock’s Grip on the EU’s Climate Finance Plans’, and is available here.

    1. The BlackRock-written report is due to be released by the European Commission in the run-up to the publication of the EU’s Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy (see below). Read Change Finance’s analysis of the draft report.
    2. EFAMA, AFME, IIF and AIMA, all four counting BlackRock as an active member, have opposed the creation of a taxonomy of “polluting activities”. BlackRock is also part of 5 other groups that have opposed it.
    3. The Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy is due to be published early July. Reclaim Finance has published an analysis of the battle around one key component, the so-called ‘sustainable taxonomy’.
    4. Examples include the High-Level Forum on Capital Markets Union set by the EC, the Commission’s Platform on Sustainable Finance, or the multiple consultative groups organized by ESMA (European Securities and Markets Authority).
    5. BlackRock has 5% of shares or more in all top European oil and gas majors. Its own board of directors has several ties to the industry (e.g. Pamela Daley also sits on the board of BP and until 2016 was on the board of BG Group, a gas corporation then acquired by Shell). BlackRock also has close commercial relations with many fossil fuel majors and appears to have a strong voting bias, including on ESG proposals, when it does.