Press Releases

BlackRock Releases 2020 Stewardship Priorities for Engaging with Public Companies

BlackRock |Mar 18, 2020

Sets Criteria to Gauge Company Progress and Drive Proxy Voting
Delivering on Sustainability Commitments Made in January


New York – March 18, 2020 – BlackRock, Inc. released its Engagement Priorities for 2020 (the “Priorities”) today, outlining its roadmap for investment stewardship this year. The Priorities also further BlackRock’s commitment in January to make sustainability its new standard for investing.

As part of that commitment, BlackRock published a set of key indicators against which it will track companies’ progress on the Priorities and identified the public company directors that BlackRock will hold accountable for demonstrating material progress on these issues.

Stewardship is an essential component of BlackRock’s fiduciary responsibility to clients, and the 2020 Priorities are the foundation for the firm’s engagement with thousands of companies annually. These Priorities represent the five core areas where BlackRock Investment Stewardship (“BIS”) will focus as it seeks to enhance the long-term value of client assets.

“BlackRock approaches investment stewardship in a strategic, differentiated way. We have the capacity to engage companies year-round in meaningful discussions on the specific steps they should be taking to manage long-term risks and opportunities, including increasingly material sustainability issues. We engage on relevant issues with companies regardless of whether or not they have received a shareholder proposal,” said Barbara Novick, co-founder and Vice Chairman of BlackRock. “In every market, directors are elected by shareholders to oversee management. As a result, we have found that focusing on holding directors accountable creates a globally consistent approach to stewardship.”  

Priorities & Key Performance Indicators

For 2020, BIS articulated five priorities: board quality, environmental risks and opportunities, corporate strategy and capital allocation, compensation to promote long-termism and human capital management. The 2020 Priorities are a continuation from 2019, with each Priority now including accompanying criteria for 2020 that aligns with BlackRock’s expectations for measurable disclosure and action toward creating long-term value for shareholders.

For companies that BIS has engaged with on one or more of the Priorities and have not made progress, BIS will hold the longest-serving or most relevant director accountable, as follows:

  • Board quality – BIS seeks to understand how, and how effectively, a board oversees and counsels management. A core component of BIS’ evaluation is direct engagement with a board member. In each key regional market, for those companies with which we seek to engage, we expect to have access to a non-executive, and preferably independent, director(s) who has been identified as being accessible to shareholders where appropriate. BIS will hold the most senior non-executive director, e.g. chairman or lead independent director, accountable for ensuring such a role is identified.
  • Environmental risks and opportunities – BIS expects companies with which we have already engaged on TCFD-aligned reporting to disclose sufficient detail across the four pillars of the TCFD framework and provide a timeframe within which the company will report fully in line with the eleven recommendations.1 BIS will hold members of the relevant committee, or the most senior non-executive director, accountable for inadequate disclosures and the business practices underlying them.
  • Corporate strategy and capital allocation – As part of long-term strategy and capital allocation, companies should articulate publicly how sector relevant sustainability risks and opportunities, for instance those identified in the SASB framework, are integrated into business strategy.2 BIS will engage with companies to review our reporting expectations and encourage them to make the connection between long-term planning and business-relevant sustainability risks and opportunities. BIS will hold the most senior non-executive director accountable if, within an agreed timeframe, the company has not provided adequate disclosures and made progress on the business practices underlying them.
  • Compensation to promote long-termism – Executive pay should be adequately aligned with performance and shareholder investment return. BIS expects pay outcomes to be correlated with a business relevant long-term performance metric, e.g. 3-5 year total shareholder returns or returns on invested capital. BIS will also evaluate company-wide structures, as we believe compensation, including base, bonus, and pension contributions, is an important element of a company’s ability to retain and attract talent at all levels and provides insight into a company’s human capital management in practice. BIS will hold compensation committee members accountable for pay outcomes.
  • Human capital management - Given most companies identify their employees as their greatest asset, we expect boards to oversee human capital management strategies. Absent disclosure about the board’s role in overseeing the company’s human capital practices, including an explanation of the type of information reviewed and how frequently, BIS will hold members of the relevant committee, or the most senior non-executive director, accountable.


“In intensifying our stewardship efforts, BlackRock expects companies to improve how they disclose sustainability-related risks and to demonstrate a plan for and progress on managing material risks and opportunities,” said Michelle Edkins, Global Head of BlackRock Investment Stewardship. “Where companies are making progress on these critical issues, we expect to support management and the board. However, given the groundwork laid over the past several years, we will hold directors accountable where we have concerns about lack of progress on managing material sustainability factors or inadequate disclosure on business relevant risks and opportunities.”

Amra Balic, Head of BlackRock Investment Stewardship, EMEA added, “Using our votes on director election is imperative in Europe as we observe relatively fewer shareholder proposals than in the US as well as greater consistency in levels of support among institutional investors. During the course of the past European voting season there were 14 shareholder proposals related to environmental or social matters compared to 165 in the US”.3

Enhancing Transparency

In addition to engaging with public companies on the issues outlined in the Priorities, BIS is committed to greater transparency into its engagements and votes. To accomplish this, BIS will:

  • Map our engagement Priorities to specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, such as gender equality and clean and affordable energy, as we put increased focus on sustainability-related issues and relevant disclosures given their growing impact on long-term value creation.
  • Disclose additional information to provide enhanced transparency about how BIS conducts investment stewardship activities in support of long-term sustainable performance for clients. Key steps towards increased transparency that we have already taken include: 1) moving from annual to quarterly voting disclosure; 2) publishing Vote Bulletins promptly around key votes including an explanation of our vote decision.  In the next quarter, we will provide enhanced disclosure of our company engagements.



BlackRock dedicates more people and technology resources to our stewardship activities than any other investment management firm in the world. As both a minority shareholder and essentially a permanent shareholder in public companies on behalf of clients invested through index strategies, we take a long-term approach to stewardship, encouraging companies to adopt corporate governance practices aligned with sustainable long-term value creation. BIS does this by:

  • Holding directors accountable. In 2019, we voted against directors or withheld votes nearly 4,800 times at more than 2,700 different companies around the world. We believe holding directors accountable is the most effective way to pursue changes at a company.
  • Helping drive increased boardroom diversity by engagement and voting. As of June 2019, less than 20% of Russell 1000 companies had fewer than two women on their boards, down from 30% in 2018, following engagements with BIS.
  • Advocating for enhanced disclosure through SASB and TCFD. In February, TCFD announced its recommendation has more than 1,000 supporters globally, signifying a major shift toward acknowledging the financial risk of climate change. SASB has acknowledged the significant increase in reporting against its standards following BlackRock’s call for SASB-aligned reporting in January.
  • Enhanced technology. We leverage BlackRock’s Aladdin investment and risk management platform to store engagement insights, allowing us to more efficiently share those insights with our 2,400 investment professionals, for example equity & credit analysts and portfolio managers, and provide our clients with detailed engagement reports.
  • More frequent disclosures. BIS moved from annual to quarterly voting disclosure as of Q1 2020 with a digital searchable database of votes available via the BIS website. In the next quarter, we will provide enhanced disclosure of our company engagements.
  • More transparency into votes. We’ve already published several Vote Bulletins following certain annual meetings, including an explanation of our decisions on key votes, and will continue to publish more as we head into peak proxy season.
  • Recognized as leader in investment stewardship. BlackRock was awarded the 2018 International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN) Global Stewardship Disclosure Award for Asset Managers. We also received an A+ for our stewardship and governance efforts in our UN Principles for Responsible Investment assessment.

In January 2020, BlackRock joined Climate Action 100+, an investor-led corporate engagement initiative encouraging companies to improve climate risk disclosure and align their business strategies with the goals of the Paris Agreement. This was a natural progression of our stewardship efforts on climate risk, building on the work we have done to promote enhanced governance practices, target setting and disclosures by public companies.

BlackRock is an active member of several organizations focused on climate change, including: Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (since 2004), Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk & Sustainability (since 2008), Principles for Responsible Investment (since 2008), Investor Group on Climate Change (since 2009), and Asian Investor Group on Climate Change (since its launch in 2016). These organizations, in turn, are leading participants in Climate Action 100+.

About BlackRock Investment Stewardship

BlackRock has the largest and most global investment stewardship team in the industry with 47 professionals in seven offices across six markets worldwide. We engage in more direct conversations with company leaders and directors on key issues than any other investment management firm. In 2019, BIS participated in more than 2,600 engagements with nearly 1,700 companies.

1 Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures
2 Sustainability Accounting Standards Board
3 Source: BlackRock: “Europe’s listed companies: their governance, shareholders and votes cast

About BlackRock

BlackRock’s purpose is to help more and more people experience financial well-being. As a fiduciary to investors and a leading provider of financial technology, we help millions of people build savings that serve them throughout their lives by making investing easier and more affordable. For additional information on BlackRock, please visit