When I heard our colleagues at Amazon Watch and Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International were staging a protest outside BlackRock, Inc.’s New York City headquarters, with Indigenous activists leading the way, I felt I had to be there. Here’s why:
- BlackRock is exposed to human rights and environmental abuses by palm
oil companies in Papua New Guinea. These abuses include the clear-felling
of tens of thousands of hectares of Papua New Guinean rainforest. This
precious forest supports rural communities and is among the most biodiverse in
the world. Abuses also include admissions that companies bribed officials
including a government minister, paid police to brutalize villagers, used child
labour and participated in an apparent tax evasion scheme.
- BlackRock has funneled millions of dollars to JBS, one of the world’s largest food companies. Global Witness exposed JBS for buying from 144 Amazon ranches contrary to its legal no deforestation obligations, including suppliers linked to human rights abuses, the use of slave labour, illegal deforestation, land grabs and cattle laundering.
- BlackRock is linked to a company that has destroyed unique and irreplaceable rainforest on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island—a key biodiversity hotspot—that Indigenous landowners directly depend on for their livelihoods.
- BlackRock is one of the major financial players found to have together driven nearly $44 billion into companies directly or indirectly implicated in deforestation in Brazil, the Congo Basin and Papua New Guinea.
- BlackRock invested in Russia’s largest shipping company, Sovcomflot, which specializes in shipping fossil fuels – and then was stuck holding over $4m of those shares after Russia invaded Ukraine.
In short: I’m tired of writing about the world’s biggest asset manager’s links to deforestation and climate breakdown.
BlackRock’s website says: “We believe that the transition to a net zero world is the shared responsibility of every citizen, corporation, and government.” But I doubt that Blackrock will ever take responsibility for the abuses above. Voluntary commitments and reassurances from the finance sector fail time and time again. Only new laws in financial centers like the US, UK, EU and China will stop the money pipeline funding rainforest destruction and the human rights abuses associated with it.
Until then, we’ll keep showing up to protest.
The responses from BlackRock and other named companies to these allegations can be found in each Global Witness report linked above.