SF Bay Area

Peace and Planet: Shareholder Advocacy

This past shareholder season, CODEPINK applied several tactics and strategies to advocate for disarmament and environmental justice. We worked with a cross-section of individuals and  partners, including socially responsible faith-based organizations, investment management firms, academia, former BlackRock employees, grassroots environmental networks, and anti-war groups. The aim was to push weapon manufacturers, banks, and asset managers to end their financial investments in companies that are accelerating climate change and profiting from weapons of war. The work paid off because, collectively, we creatively got in the face of corporate greed and power, forcing them to recognize us.

Mercy Investment Sisters filed a resolution based on BlackRock’s environmental proxy voting record. CODEPINK was a co-filer of their resolution, which led to an engagement call with BlackRock. The proposal requested that the Board review and evaluate the company’s proxy voting record on climate change. An informative meeting took place with the Stewardship Team. As a result, the proponents withdrew the resolution as long as a set of agreements were implemented in the coming shareholder seasons.

This past spring was a critical test for BlackRock. They’ve made big promises — now it was up to grassroots pressure to see if they would live up to their word. The All Eyes on BlackRock protests meant that we are paying attention to them; we see their commitments, and we will only be satisfied when they ACT. So, along with our partners at BlackRock’s Big Problem, we held demonstrations in San Francisco and throughout the globe. 

For the shareholder season, CODEPINK highlighted three proposals about human rights and nuclear weapons filed by faith-based investors represented by Investor Advocates for Social Justice. Proposals with Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and PNC Bank went to a vote at shareholder meetings this past spring.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management company, released a statement indicating that it would like companies to implement and disclose their human rights processes to identify, manage, and prevent adverse human rights impacts. Like BlackRock’s statement, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin’s proposals request that the companies produce a human rights impact assessment report. In contrast, the PNC proposal asks for assessing risks associated with financing the nuclear weapons industry. As a top ten shareholder in all three companies, BlackRock plays an essential role in leveraging its power by voting to support these resolutions.

We called on BlackRock to hold themselves accountable and demonstrate their commitment to human rights by voting yes on the resolutions. We generated over 2 thousand emails asking them to do so. But, unfortunately, BlackRock never revealed its votes on the proposals, so we can only assume that the company continues to support weapons of war, and its statement on human rights only rings hollow.

BlackRock wasn’t the only company on our sh*t list. Activists across the country also targeted Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Chase Banks for their funding of Enbridge Line 3, a tar sands oil pipeline under construction in the pristine lands of northern Minnesota. In San Francisco, CODEPINK activists Cynthia Papermaster created a “Garden for Mother Earth” to show the peaceful world we’re protecting from the dangerous pipeline, which threatens our water and the lives of all beings. In contrast, others organized a blockade that restricted the entrance into Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Chase Banks. CODEPINK, along with BlackRock’s Big Problem campaigners, felt the call to join the Line 3 struggle. We participated in bearing witness to the protest actions in Minnesota.

In May, General Dynamics (GD) held its annual general meeting in Reston, Virginia. CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin confronted the CEO and the board with questions about the company’s weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and other repressive regimes, such as the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt. While video recording was not allowed at the meeting, an audio of the discussion is available here.

Later in the month, CODEPINK joined BlackRock’s Big Problem in kicking off a week of actions leading up to the company’s annual shareholders meeting. The second annual People’s Assembly on BlackRock included Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, Indigenous international leaders, scientists, and frontline activists fighting fossil fuel projects and industrial agricultural plantations worldwide. This inspiring virtual event was MC’d by Niria Alicia, a Xicana human rights and climate justice activist and strategist and Run4Salmon organizer, and named UNEP 2020 Young Champion of the Earth. Watch the whole assembly online. 

On May 25th, CODEPINK held its annual BlackRock shareholders meeting protest at its headquarters in New York City, followed by a spontaneous coal delivery action led by New York Communities for Change. While at the shareholder meeting, CODEPINK pressed CEO Larry Fink on questions about the company’s human rights policy. Though Fink acknowledged us at the meeting, he sadly gave an unsatisfactory boilerplate response. 

Next Steps

Pink Slip Murry S. Gerber. BlackRock board member Murry S. Gerber has deep ties to war profiteer Halliburton. In addition, Murry S. Gerber is actively profiting from the weapons and fossil fuel industries. He serves on the board of directors at BlackRock, the world’s most powerful arms and oil investor. Learn more about this next step. 

Stay tuned for more BlackRock protests, more Line 3 actions, protests at the UNGA, and COP26. 

Additional BlackRock campaign interests:

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CodePink is a women's grassroots-initiated, worldwide organization of women and men working for peace, social justice and a green economy. CodePink SF serves the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.


 

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The national CodePink organization organizes for justice for Iraqis and to hold war criminals accountable. CodePink actively opposes the U.S. war in Afghanistan, torture, the detention center at Guantanamo, weaponized and spy drones, the prosecution of whistleblowers, U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and repressive regimes.

Rooted in a network of local organizers, CodePink's tactics include satire, street theatre, creative visuals, civil resistance, and directly challenging powerful decision-makers in government and corporations. And, of course, wearing pink!