Eye on the Amazon

120,000 of Us Tell BlackRock to Stop Financing Amazon Destruction

Photo credit: Amazon Watch

Last Thursday, Amazon Watch and CREDO Action delivered over 120,000 petition signatures to BlackRock's San Francisco headquarters, calling on the asset manager to divest from companies drilling for oil in the Amazon rainforest. The next day, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink sent a letter to large public companies calling on them to "serve a social purpose," make "a positive contribution to society," and "begin discussions early" with activists.

Of course we applaud these statements, but we also believe that BlackRock needs to heed its own advice. After releasing our November report documenting BlackRock's significant investments in companies drilling in the Amazon, we heard nothing from the company. When we sent a letter to its impact investing team requesting a meeting to discuss the matter the following month, the company was again silent.

Last week we took our message – which was echoed by over 120,000 other people thanks to outstanding support from CREDO – to BlackRock's corporate office and again requested a meeting. We were intercepted outside by Barney Villa, BlackRock's VP for Corporate Resiliency, Safety, and Security. He refused to let us into the building and seemed unreceptive to dialogue, though he did promise to deliver the signatures to the appropriate executives.

This reaction was about what we expected. Like most financial institutions, BlackRock likes to talk about its public commitments to responsible investment and climate risk disclosure while simultaneously bankrolling oil and gas companies with operations in the Amazon and elsewhere that violate indigenous rights and deepen the climate crisis. And apparently BlackRock would rather not discuss this aspect of its portfolio.

Investments like these provide critical resources to the fossil fuel industry, which is choosing to expand oil and gas infrastructure at the cost of our collective future. Expanding oil drilling deeper into the Amazon has particularly devastating impacts on the rainforest ecosystem, indigenous peoples, and the global climate. Our End Amazon Crude campaign highlights these impacts and the role of U.S. corporations as "leading" financiers, processors, and consumers of this destructive commodity.

We will not end Amazon crude until big financial institutions like BlackRock cease funding oil companies operating in the Amazon. And we will not fully counteract the broader climate crisis until these same investors divest from all extractive industries around the world and instead invest in clean, renewable energy.

Our November report, Investing in Amazon Destruction, revealed that BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase have invested hundreds of millions in GeoPark, Frontera, and Andes Petroleum. These three oil and gas companies have licenses to explore and drill in the western Amazon's fossil fuel frontier on the ancestral territories of indigenous peoples that have not been properly consulted and in many cases have explicitly rejected oil drilling.

We gathered outside of BlackRock's San Francisco office last week to call them out on their hypocrisy for touting the importance of industry-wide climate risk disclosure while investing in these companies that are plundering the planet and trampling on indigenous rights and to highlight that the company has quietly increased these investments over the past few months.

Their dirty investments are certainly not limited to the Amazon, so when we delivered our petition signatures we also gave the floor to our friends with Rainforest Action Network and Idle No More SF Bay to highlight JPMorgan Chase's tar sands investments and the complicity of the broader financial sector in funding dirty energy projects on indigenous territories.

Put simply: although fossil fuel companies do the drilling, they would not be able to expand the fossil fuel frontier into ever more remote corners of the world if were it not for the financial institutions funding that expansion. Fortunately, certain institutions are beginning to recognize the reality that investing in continued fossil fuel expansion is not in the interest of the planet or in their financial and reputational interests.

In the past month alone, the World Bank, insurance giant AXA, and the City of New York have all committed to divesting from fossil fuel companies. BlackRock and JPMorgan need to do the same. Statements about climate risk and social purpose are no substitute for this concrete action. Divesting from Amazon crude, with its egregious environmental and human rights implications, is one good place to start.

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