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Top investor BlackRock to expand climate talks with companies in 2021

LONDON/BOSTON (Reuters) - BlackRock on Thursday said it would more than double the number of companies it engages with over climate-related issues to over 1,000 and laid out stronger goals on other fronts for portfolio firms ahead of the upcoming shareholder meeting season.

FILE PHOTO: The BlackRock logo is seen outside of its offices in New York City, U.S., October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager with around $7.8 trillion in assets, said its enhanced target list would cover 90% of the greenhouse gas emissions linked to the operations of the companies its clients invest in, globally.

It also made explicit its call for companies to lay out plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, in line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

“We will step up our engagement efforts with this universe and consider accelerated voting actions should the substance of companies’ climate-related commitments and disclosures not meet our expectations,” the company said.

The changes come at a time of rising pressure on companies to help address environmental and social problems. New York-based BlackRock said performing well on such sustainability measures can help companies improve long-term returns.

After a year marked by growing concern over the lobbying activities of some companies, particularly around climate, BlackRock also said it would look for companies to align their lobbying activities with their public statements.

It also called for them to make their boards more diverse.

In addition, the money manager said it would be more likely to support some climate-related shareholder proposals than in the past - a sore point with many climate activists.

In a report on Thursday, the company said it had increased its support for climate- and social-related shareholder proposals since July 1, backing 11 out of 22.

“We’ve really intensified our engagement approach,” said London-based Sandy Boss, the asset manager’s top stewardship executive, who joined in April. She cited the example of Spanish airports operator Aena, where BlackRock backed a shareholder resolution calling for an annual vote on its climate plans.

Editing by David Gregorio