Is Vanguard Sinking the Climate Ship? | Amazon Watch
Amazon Watch

Is Vanguard Sinking the Climate Ship?

July 12, 2022 | Moira Birss | Eye on the Amazon

As an Amazon Watch supporter, you may remember from our past research that asset manager Vanguard is a major investor in some of the mining and oil companies that are causing irreparable harm to the Amazon rainforest and to Indigenous peoples. Vanguard is not only financing destruction and rights violations in the Amazon, but it is financing climate catastrophe throughout the world.

We’re taking action to uncover and amplify this ugly truth. We joined with allies to launch a new campaign pushing Vanguard — the world’s second-largest asset manager — to “right its ship.” As a member of the Vanguard S.O.S. campaign (a nod to the company’s ship logo) we’re documenting how it is steering its clients, and the entire world, toward financial and climate disaster, with a new campaign website and protests at multiple Vanguard locations globally

During the launch of this campaign, Amazon Watch co-hosted a press conference during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where Indigenous and community leaders from around the world described the catastrophes facing their communities and ecosystems and called on Vanguard (and BlackRock) to stop investing in these harms.

The focus on Vanguard is crucial because this asset manager is doing a terrible job at protecting its clients’ and the planet’s futures — though it doesn’t want you to know it.

Vanguard has joined industry groups that claim to be taking climate action, like the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative (NZAM). In joining the initiative, members, including Vanguard, are supposed to release detailed commitments about how they will meet minimum standards on climate action. 

Yet Vanguard’s “commitment,” which it announced in late May, barely even deserves the label. Instead of releasing any kind of actual plan, Vanguard punted. Vanguard leadership chose to point to the paltry 4% of its assets under management (AUM) that are currently on track to be net-zero aligned by 2050 and said that less than half of that 4% is ‘on track’ to be net-zero aligned by 2030. These promises are a drop in the bucket in the context of the $8.1 trillion in AUM that Vanguard manages.

Vanguard’s climate “pledge” pales in comparison to its industry peers. Even BlackRock — which many of you know we’ve been critical of — committed to an inadequate but much better 75% of its corporate and sovereign assets, or 58% of its total assets, while several members of the NZAM have committed to 100% net zero alignment. In sailing terms, that means that Vanguard is claiming the ship is seaworthy when it’s still missing the sail, and the anchor, and the mast, and… well, basically everything needed to sail!

Paying lip service to climate concerns while carrying on business as usual with heavy emitters not only reflects Vanguard’s hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance, but also its willful contravening of its duty as a manager of people’s savings. Join us in calling on Vanguard to right the ship!

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