PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’: Blackrock & ESG | ZPG rebrands to Houseful

Andrew Stanton’s daily PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’ in association with Estate Agent Networking and News Now.

Just where does Blackrock now stand on ESG

For several months Blackrock has been seen to be embattled with many of its investment strategies seen as being at odds with the now polarising call for ESG. Whilst it is logical with the management of so many assets across numerous verticals, there is likely to be clashes between core needs of these industries to execute and the need to save the planet it looks like the CEO Fink is having to be more decisive.

As far back as a year ago Blackrock which manages over $8.59 worth of assets, was seen to be reigning in its overall ESG strategy, balancing it against the needs of stakeholders wanting financial returns, but now it seems that its present stance on Glencore the huge mining conglomerate, it is now nailing its colours to the mast.

As reported in CITY.AM, by Charlie Conchie, ‘Blackrock has criticised “inconsistencies” in the climate policy of mining giant Glencore and voted against the firm’s green strategy at its annual general meeting earlier this year, according to new filings. The world’s biggest asset manager, the third biggest shareholder in Glencore with a stake worth some $9bn, was among a host of investors to reject Glencore’s climate policy at its shareholder gathering in May.

“While the UK-listed mining company has improved their disclosure of climate-related risks and opportunities and has continued to deliver on their Climate Action Transition Plan, BIS is concerned that aspects of the report and recent developments have pointed to inconsistencies in the company’s stated strategy,” Blackrock said in its stewardship report.

According to new US securities filings, some 30 per cent of Glencore’s shareholders rejected the firm’s climate report, up from 24 per cent in 2022, the Financial Times first reported. MFS Investment Management, the ninth largest shareholder with a 1.1 per cent stake, also rejected Glencore’s climate strategy, the Financial Times reported.

The rejection of Glencore’s climate plans comes amid growing criticism of the firm’s approach to its highly profitable coal business. A host of top investors including Legal & General Investment Management, Allianz, Scottish Widows, Man Group and HSBC Asset Management all backed a resolution earlier this year calling for the firm to explain how its thermal coal production is compatible with its climate goals.

Blackrock’s own strategy on climate support has been under scrutiny in the past year. The firm, which has some $9.4tn assets under management, voted in favour of just 26 climate plans at companies’ annual meetings in the 12 months to June, around seven per cent of the total. Blackrock’s backing of climate proposals marked a sharp decline from last year when it voted in favour of 22 per cent globally.

Blackrock chief Larry Fink has reined in his support for ESG policies after a wave of criticism from lawmakers and campaigners in the US. Fink said he had even stopped using the term ‘ESG’ in June because it had become too politicised.

Maybe it is impossible to be both a deliverer of value and revenue and at the same time have a vacillating stance on ESG, what might harm short or medium term gains, but will deter long term growth, definitely some sleepless nights likely in the Blackrock c-suite.

ZPG rebrands to Houseful

I always scratch my head when a company rebrands, ZPG the parent company of Zoopla has for the last four years had Houseful Limited sitting in waiting as a dormant company on readiness for allowing its name change, for me the big question is why now?

Clearly property portals are changing their business model at speed, even Rightmove has changed it c-suite to reflect the need for a digital impetus to its operations, but why has ZPG deemed it necessary to have a Twitter/X Elon Musk moment now? Yes it signals a change in how it is perceived, but what has Houseful got in mind strategically.

In many ways though the DNA of ZPG was wrapped up in the driving force that is and was the long exited Alex Chesterman who wanted to service agents not just by a digital solution to newspaper advertising, but by pushing out leading software solutions via the CRM’s he acquired. All of which was part of a larger plan to fully monetise the opportunities in the UK housing vertical.

As I know from my day job, getting the rank and file of estate agency facing operations to even understand that they are in the midst of a complete digital transformation of their operations and ways of even engaging with their new stakeholders is a gigantic task in itself. Providing solutions that get adoption and turn a profit are even harder.

PROPTECH-X in association with Estate Agent Networking & NewsNow publications.

Andrew Stanton is the founder and CEO of Proptech-PR, a consultancy for Founders of Proptechs looking to grow and exit, using his influence from decades of industry experience. Separately he is a consultant to some of the biggest names in global real estate, advising on sales and acquisitions, market positioning, and operations. He is also the founder and editor of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.

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