the words "BlackRock advancing sustainability" on a black background.

Adfree Cities calls out BlackRock for greenwash ads

In October 2022, Adfree Cities had a major win when our complaint against HSBC’s greenwash adverts was upheld by the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA). 

The ASA’s ruling against HSBC fired a shot across the bow of the finance sector. From now on, any financial company wanting to hype “green claims” in their adverts must not fail to mention their financing of fossil fuels.

But just months later, investment management giant BlackRock, the world’s largest investor in fossil fuel expansion, released a video advert on their UK Twitter account in which they claim to be “advancing sustainability.”

Adfree Cities have lodged a complaint with the advertising regulator on the grounds that BlackRock’s advert is misleading UK consumers by selecting a few small ‘green’ initiatives, while omitting material information about the company’s enormous financing of fossil fuel expansion and deforestation.

The ad is considered to be in breach of advertising Codes and the ASA’s updated guidance following their precedent-setting ruling against HSBC. We have asked the ASA to immediately ban this ad and any similarly misleading marketing communications in future. 

What’s so bad about BlackRock?

The @BlackRock_UK Twitter video presents BlackRock as proactively working to address climate breakdown by investing money in green energy, zero-emissions transport and education. 

We’re supporting solutions to tackle the biggest global challenges”, says the ad, to a light and boppy backing track. 

However, BlackRock’s huge financed emissions and climate-wrecking investment plans are not mentioned. BlackRock is the largest global investor in fossil fuel expansion, with a 2023 report by Reclaim Finance showing that BlackRock currently invests $191 billion in 173 different fossil fuel developers; 89% of this by value is in oil and gas.

The company holds particularly large investments in coal. In 2021, BlackRock was found to hold $85bn of investments in coal companies, despite a previous pledge to divest. 

In the ad BlackRock claims to be supporting companies that have helped to “Reduce 102,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions“[sic] and to avoid 286 million metric tons of emissions through renewable energy generation; but these figures are not supported by any proof. What we do know is that BlackRock’s own calculations from 2020 show that the company financed 330 million tonnes of CO2e emissions; this is likely to be conservative owing to the calculations the company has used, and the fact that 35% of their assets under management are not accounted for. 

A leader in unsustainability 

“We expect to remain long-term investors on behalf of our clients in carbon-intensive sectors”.

BlackRock

When asked by the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee whether they would support a call for no new investment in coal, oil, and gas, in line with the International Energy Agency’s urgent recommendation for net zero, BlackRock publicly answered that it would not.

The firm has lived up to this expectation, not only by continuing to invest colossal sums in fossil fuels, but by consistently voting against climate policy. In its role as an investor in over 2000 companies around the world, BlackRock has blocked or abstained on over half of climate-related shareholder resolutions designed to address current environmental and social crises. 

Stop the greenwash

Given BlackRock’s current level of support for fossil fuel expansion, destructive agribusiness and other polluting industries, the company cannot be said to be “advancing sustainability”. 

This advert misleadingly portrays BlackRock as green, acting to enhance its reputation among UK consumers and retail investors. We are calling on the ASA to ban this ad and all future ads from BlackRock that fail to make clear their climate- and environmentally-damaging investments. 

Beyond this, we are joined with other campaign groups across Europe in calling for a ban on fossil ads and sponsorships.

Help us fight greenwash ads by joining the network. You’ll keep up to date with all our campaigns, victories and opportunities for you to get involved. 

Published by