Will BlackRock Impact Corporate Social Impact?

StartingUpGood Magazine
5 min readJan 19, 2018


When Larry Fink — Founder, Chairman and CEO of the world’s largest investment firm BlackRock, Inc. — tells CEOs that they should care about their company’s social impact, people listen.

And the media reports.

Whether you think Fink’s message is a a “watershed moment on Wall Street” like Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times — or you are more skeptical about the letter’s impact on corporate actions — there is no denying the buzz it has caused, especially for those of us who care about how the private sector can advance public good.

In case you are overwhelmed by coverage, here are some articles we think are worth reading — or at least skimming.

Larry Fink’s Annual Letter to CEOs: A Sense of Purpose

We suggest reading the letter in its entirety before diving into what others have to say about it.

BlackRock’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Support

Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times was the first report on Fink’s letter.

BlackRock CEO to Companies: Pay Attention To ‘Societal Impact’ (paywall)

Sarah Krouse of The Wall Street Journal emphasizes Fink’s call to companies to “better articulate their long-term plans and how their organizations contribute to society.”

Wall Street Titan to CEOs: It’s Not Just About the Money

Charles Riley of CNN Money writes, “The message won’t be cheered in all quarters. Some corporate leaders hold that their sole obligation is to maximize returns to shareholders. But that view is being challenged more frequently.”

BlackRock Just Did One Thing That Changed the Game for Anyone Who Invests

Ross Baird, writing for ImpactAlpha, argues that “BlackRock’s decision could actually change the day-to-day behavior of CEOs, boards and leadership teams in ways that philanthropy, CSR and past impact investing initiatives have not.”

BlackRock Preaches Long-Termism, But Some Critics Aren’t Buying the Sermon

Leon Kaye reporting for TriplePundit.com explores both positive and negative reactions, concluding that “(BlackRock) will only be taken seriously by the business community when it finally takes action and sheds some equities tied to companies with dubious environmental and social track records.”

Trending: Blackrock, Citi Respond to Turning Tide by Embracing Social Responsibility

Sustainable Brands looks at the trend of companies recognizing “the link between strong ESG performance and profit.”

BlackRock CEO Urges Private Industry to Consider its Overall Impact

Erin Ruben from the Nonprofit Quarterly gives her public sector take on how Fink’s letter might impact nonprofits.

BlackRock’s Larry Fink Talks the Talk But Omits the Walk: Gadfly

Stephen Gandel’s article featured in The Washington Post is skeptical. “In the end, Fink’s letters imploring companies to think more about the long-term health of the economy can’t hurt, though if BlackRock doesn’t actually back it up with action, it’s hard to see how much it can actually help.”

Is BlackRock Seeing ‘Cleary’-Eyed? A ‘Watershed Moment’ If Words Become Actions

Jay Coen Gilbert, B Lab co-founder and Forbes contributor, uses Fink’s message to argue for corporate governance reform. “Until companies adopt benefit corporation governance or its equivalent, market and legal forces will support only long-term, responsible strategies in which shareholder and stakeholder interests converge.”

The World’s Largest Investment Firm Wants Corporations to “Serve a Social Purpose”

Emily Stewart reports in Vox about lingering questions surrounding Fink’s message. “Fink makes some reference to where he believes companies should be focusing in their long-term strategies — items such as wage growth, automation, and climate change — but exactly what he is looking for, or what BlackRock intends to do about it, is largely unclear. He also doesn’t downplay the importance of profits but instead seems to imply money-making and acting with a responsibility to society are intertwined.”

Companies Say They Want To Support Sustainable Development, But Do They Know How?

Ben Schiller’s article in Fast Company suggests CEOs want to make a positive contribution to society as Fink requests, but they aren’t sure how to — as evidenced by a recent Deloitte survey of CEOs on their company’s efforts to advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

BlackRock sets out major SRI ambitions and targets passives

Reporting for Citywire Selector, Margaryta Kirakosian highlights that BlackRock “plans to double the size of the investment stewardship team over the next three years.”

Everyone at Davos is talking about ‘Larry’s letter’

“Larry’s Letter” is starting conversations at the 2018 World Economic Forum. Business Insider’s Matt Turner describes three typical CEO responses: 1) Those who agree wholeheartedly 2) Those who question whether there’s a friction between a “positive contribution to society” and financial performance and 3) Those who think that BlackRock telling CEOs that they need to make a “positive contribution to society” is straying into the world of politics.



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