BlackRock CEO Larry Fink says stakeholder capitalism is not 'woke'

Fink extols the power of capitalism, rejecting criticism that he's catering to progressives

Larry Fink, the founder and CEO of investment giant BlackRock, defended his push for corporate America to adopt more climate-friendly policies in the face of conservative criticism, arguing that stakeholder capitalism is about turning a profit – not being "woke."

In his annual letter to other chief executives, Fink – one of the world's most powerful investors – extolled the power of capitalism and pushed back against criticism that he was using his vast platform to advocate for a more politically correct or progressive agenda. 

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"Stakeholder capitalism is not about politics. It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not ‘woke’," he wrote in the letter, titled "The Power of Capitalism." "We focus on sustainability not because we’re environmentalists, but because we are capitalists and fiduciaries to our clients."

Larry Fink, chief executive officer of BlackRock Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Fink said there are indications that the U.S. economy is slowing as businesses weigh whether the Trump administration will be able to pass tax reform and an infrastructure program quickly. Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg

Larry Fink, chief executive officer of BlackRock Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York on April 19, 2017. (Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty / Getty Images)

In his letter two years ago, Fink told CEOs that climate change will be a "defining factor in companies' long-term prospects," warning that "we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance." The message from BlackRock, which controls more than $10 trillion in assets, reverberated throughout the financial world with seismic force: Within weeks, Microsoft announced plans to be carbon-negative by 2030, while Salesforce backed an effort to plant 1 trillion trees by 2030 and Delta said it would take steps to become the first carbon-neutral airline. 

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But his public support for investment through environmental, social and governance practices and policies has drawn rebuke from both sides of the political aisle. Republicans have accused Fink of "woke posturing" in order to conceal BlackRock's investments in Chinese companies through U.S. pension funds. 

BlackRock is the first foreign-owned, asset management company that has received approval from Chinese President Xi Jinping to start a mutual fund business in the country. Fink has said China will be one of the "biggest opportunities" for the investment giant over the long term, but has acknowledged the complicated relationship between Beijing and the U.S.

BlackRock

BlackRock offices in New York City. Founded in 1988, BlackRock Inc. is a U.S. multinational investment management corporation. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)

At the same time, environmental groups have slammed Fink for not fully divesting from fossil fuels and have urged him to do more to combat climate change. 

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Fink reaffirmed the investment manager's commitment to focusing on environmental, social and corporate governance issues, but stressed that doing so does not conflict with making money – and that BlackRock is focused on this in order to create profits.

"Divesting from entire sectors – or simply passing carbon-intensive assets from public markets to private markets – will not get the world to net zero. And BlackRock does not pursue divestment from oil and gas companies as a policy," Fink said, adding: "We focus on sustainability not because we’re environmentalists, but because we are capitalists and fiduciaries to our clients."