Corporate leaders have been getting an earful lately from workers, consumers and students around the world: Do something about climate change, the activists have cried out. This week, big companies almost seemed to be taking turns stepping up to the microphone to announce their response.
The week began with Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, declaring in his influential, annual letter to CEOs that his company, the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, would start making investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal.
“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” Fink wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the New York Times. “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.”
Besides creating new funds to avoid fossil fuel-oriented stocks, Fink wrote that BlackRock would vote against corporate-management teams that are not making progress on sustainability. Fink, a lifelong Democrat, told the Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin that the decision was strictly business.“We are fiduciaries,” he said. “Politics isn’t part of this.”
As if on cue, a parade of companies made announcements that they, too, were joining the fight against climate change. Visa, PepsiCo and Microsoftannounced that they had made strides toward reducing their carbon footprints or were making new commitments to do so.
JetBlue, for its part, said it will become “the first large U.S. airline to offset emissions from all of its domestic flights, aiming to become carbon neutral by July,” Bloomberg reported. “This is part of a long-term commitment we and the industry have to have to reflect the climate reality we are in,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said. “Aviation has a central and important role to play.”
The earnest declarations emerged as global business leaders were preparing to head to the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos next week, where climate-change activists have promised to raise a hue and cry about the issue. “To the world leaders and those in power, I would like to say that you have not seen anything yet,” 17-year-old activist Greta Thunberg declared in a speech leading up to the WEF.
At this point, however, the activists may finally be preaching to the converted, according toa survey of more than a thousand WEF participants about the biggest global risks facing the world. “For the first time, climate change or climate-related issues occupied the top five spots as the most likely global risks,” Quartz reported.“It’s the first time since the poll began that environmental risk has ranked so highly, up from zero in 2010.”