Woke Capitalism Meets Reality

Woke capitalism is fast going out of fashion as hard realities catch up – as they inevitably do – with progressive posturing. Matthew Lynn summarises the developments in the Telegraph.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has just announced that it won’t expect the companies it invests in to meet so many environmental goals. Sweden’s SEB said recently it would lift its blanket ban on defence companies. And Barclays has said – shock horror – that it is willing to back oil and gas exploration once again. One by one, major asset managers are revisiting their fashionable pursuit of ESG and climate change.

True, that is long overdue, and will make the capital markets work better. And yet the bigger lesson is that the fund managers should never have allowed themselves to become so politicised in the first place. It is not their job, and they are really, really bad at it. The sooner they get back to simply investing in well-run companies making decent products, the better.

In the capital markets, when BlackRock speaks everyone listens. The American giant is the largest single asset manager in the world controlling $10 trillion (£8 trillion) in equities and bonds. There is hardly a major business in the world where it is not a significant shareholder.

In January last year, its chief executive Larry Fink positioned the firm as a champion of ESG – which stands for environmental, social and governance investing – pledging to wield its votes in favour of motions that committed companies to ambitious targets for combating climate change. This week, in a significant turnaround, it said it would wind down its support for proposals that were “too prescriptive”…

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