Skip to main content

Key Takeaways:

BlackRock, the world's largest fund managing US$6.5 trillion, has lost investors over US$90 billion in value destruction and opportunity cost in just a few select holdings over the past decade, due largely to ignoring global climate risk.

BlackRock makes public statements about how capitalism needs to change to deal with climate change, yet at the same time, the firm has become the world’s largest passive investor in fossil fuels.

A new path is needed that leads BlackRock, its clients and the global economy toward climate health and a new cycle of profitability and growth.

August 1, 2019 (IEEFA Asia Pacific)  ̶  BlackRock, the world’s largest fund manager with US$6.5 trillion of assets under management – bigger in value than the third largest economy in the world – continues to ignore the serious financial risks of putting money into fossil fuel-dependent companies, a new report has found.

Produced by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the report places a price tag on BlackRock’s fossil fuel-heavy strategy – saying the firm’s failure to effectively address risk has lost investors over US$90 billion in value destruction and opportunity cost from just a select few holdings over the past decade.

Entitled Inaction is BlackRock’s Biggest Risk During the Energy Transition: Still Lagging in Sustainable Investing Leadership, the report exposes the global company as failing in value creation for investors and as a laggard in sustainable finance:

  1. Out of BlackRock’s US$90 billion in estimated losses, 75% are due to its investments in four companies alone – ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP – which have all underperformed the market in the past decade.
  2. BlackRock maintains it has little control over its US$4.3 trillion passively managed portfolio. Yet leading peers such as Amundi, Norges Bank, AP4, Storebrand and KLP have all developed low‑carbon investing strategies that provide at least comparable risk-adjusted returns in a cost‑effective sustainable way, as expected of leading asset managers providing leadership and creating suitable, risk-protected products.
  3. BlackRock’s Board of Directors is beset with potential conflicts of interest, with six out of 18 board members having worked in companies with strong ties to the fossil fuel sector. Furthermore, while Blackrock’s governance team advocates for a separation of the Chair and Chief Executive Officer positions at its portfolio companies, Larry Fink still holds both roles in the firm.
  4. Despite public announcements highlighting its commitment to sustainable investments, only 0.8% of Blackrock’s total portfolio is invested in environmental, social and governance (ESG) oriented funds.
  5. In 2018, Ceres calculated that BlackRock supported just 10% of climate-related shareholder proposals in the U.S., choosing to side with management in the majority of cases. IEEFA also notes BlackRock does not disclose the results of its engagement with companies over ESG issues.

Only 0.8% of Blackrock’s total portfolio is invested in environmental, social and governance (ESG)‑oriented funds

Tim Buckley, IEEFA Director of Energy Finance Studies and co-author of the report says due to its enormous size – bigger than Japan, the third largest economy in the world – BlackRock should demonstrate stronger leadership.

“AS THE WORLD’S LARGEST UNIVERSAL OWNER, BLACKROCK WIELDS AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF INFLUENCE and shoulders a huge responsibility to the wider community,” says Buckley.

“It has the power to lead globally to address climate risk, yet to-date it remains a laggard.”

BlackRock continues to sink investor funds into fossil fuel holdings in stark contrast to recent moves by the trillion-dollar Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global which announced its divestment from oil and gas – and other major funds have shown similar leadership.

“IF THE WORLD’S LARGEST INVESTOR MAKES IT CLEAR THE RULES HAVE CHANGED, then other globally significant investors like Fidelity, Vanguard and Japan’s sovereign wealth fund will rapidly replicate and reinforce these moves, reducing stranded asset risks for all,” says Buckley.

A diversified portfolio is not an excuse to lose money

The report finds BlackRock lost its investors over US$2bn as Peabody Energy went bankrupt, then doubled down on Cloud Peak Energy as it went into bankruptcy three years later. And BlackRock lost its investors US$19bn on General Electric.

Tom Sanzillo, IEEFA co-author of the report and former First Deputy Comptroller of New York State says:

“BLACKROCK IS BOTH BEHIND THE CURVE ON COAL AND IN READING THE ENERGY TRANSITION. How many more examples of value destruction will it take, how many more years of fossil fuel companies lagging the world markets will it take before Blackrock leads?” says Sanzillo. “A diversified portfolio is not an excuse to lose money.”

IEEFA’s analysis shows how BlackRock fails to systematically protect its investors from key long-term investment risks.

The Bank of England talks of potentially $20 trillion of asset risk involved, with shareholders the biggest losers, according to the report.

BY FAILING TO FULLY INCORPORATE A ROBUST BEST SOLUTION ACROSS ITS WHOLE PRODUCT RANGE rather than just 0.8% in ESG, how is BlackRock protecting its investors?

BlackRock needs to address the US$68 billion lost in value destruction and opportunity cost

IEEFA uses the report to call on BlackRock to mobilise their world-leading investment power to address the US$68 billion lost in value destruction and opportunity cost by managing key financial climate risks, for companies and shareholders.

“BlackRock’s fossil fuel investment strategy, governance, shareholder policies and views on global economic growth would succeed in the 1980’s. Blackrock is educating its clients to accept decline. Today it would do better by getting the energy transition right,” says Sanzillo.

THE REPORT RECOMMENDS THAT BLACKROCK IMMEDIATELY PROPOSE AND PROGRESSIVELY INSTITUTE LOW-EMISSION INDEX BENCHMARKS for its passive funds as a financial best practice and core principle of asset allocation, and in so doing, once again become an innovative leader.

IEEFA suggests that BlackRock would do well to refresh its board to remove the excessive incumbent fossil fuel influence and losses that come with it. It should also take its own advice and appoint an independent Chair.

“Win or lose, profit or loss, a responsible fiduciary asks tough, clear questions. BlackRock does not ask or worse, it mumbles. Shareholder reforms should include active engagement to replace the current practice of predominantly voting with the incumbent, usually conflicted management on climate issues,” Sanzillo says.

Given the enormous financial, economic and environmental risks for all, IEEFA calls on BlackRock to leverage its unprecedented global financial dominance and demonstrate superior stewardship.

“In our view, it is BlackRock’s fiduciary duty as a global leader to lead,” says Buckley.

Read the report: Inaction is BlackRock’s Biggest Risk During the Energy Transition: Still Lagging in Sustainable Investing Leadership

Media Contacts

IEEFA Analyst Contacts


The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) conducts research and analyses on financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment. The Institute’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.

Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley, Director, Climate Energy Finance (CEF) has 30 years of financial market experience covering the Australian, Asian and global equity markets from both a buy and sell side perspective. Tim was formerly Director Energy Finance Studies, Australia/South Asia, IEEFA, and was a Managing Director, Head of Equity Research at Citigroup for 17 years until 2008.

Go to Profile

Tom Sanzillo

Tom Sanzillo is Director of Financial Analysis for IEEFA. He has produced influential studies on the oil, gas, petrochemical and coal sectors in the U.S. and internationally, including company and credit analyses, facility development, oil and gas reserves, stock and commodity market analysis, and public and private financial structures. He also examines such areas as community and shareholder activism, institutional investment, public subsidies and Puerto Rico’s energy economics.

Go to Profile

Kashish Shah

Kashish Shah is a Senior Research Analyst with Wood Mackenzie. Previously,
he worked as an Energy Finance Analyst with the Institute for Energy
Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA). He specialises in financing, policy

Go to Profile

Join our newsletter

Keep up to date with all the latest from IEEFA