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BlackRock just hired a climate scientist from the World Wildlife Fund in a top research role according to a memo naming new ESG executives (BLK)

Larry Fink BlackrockReuters

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BlackRock is continuing to double down on sustainability as it expands its environmental, social, and corporate governance-centric (ESG) leadership.

The world's largest money manager has hired a climate scientist from the World Wildlife Fund into a top sustainability research position and appointed a new COO for its sustainability-focused division, according to a memo sent to all employees Thursday seen by Insider.

BlackRock Vice Chairman Philipp Hildebrand, who also chairs BlackRock's sustainability initiatives, and Paul Bodnar, the firm's recently appointed global head of sustainable investing, said in the memo that Chris Weber has been named as head of climate and sustainability research.

Weber was most recently the global climate and energy lead scientist at conservation organization World Wildlife Fund, the firm said in the memo Insider viewed. He will report to Bodnar in his newly created role and will start later this month.

BlackRock, which oversees some $9 trillion in assets as of March 30, has set out to introduce new investment products and metrics that are so-called "temperature-aligned," or effectively measuring the change in global temperature against a portfolio's holdings. 

BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink told clients in his annual letter in January that the firm would publish a temperature alignment metric for its public and equity and bond funds within markets where that data is reliable.

Weber will lead that work and help build out its Aladdin Climate initiatives, Hildebrand and Bodnar said. He will partner with Eric Van Nostrand, head of research for sustainable investments who co-manages the firm's ETFs that invest in companies likely to benefit from the transition to a low-carbon economy.  

Beatriz Da Cunha, a longtime BlackRock leader, was named BlackRock Sustainable Investing's (BSI) first chief operating officer. Her mandate will be to scale the sustainable investing platform. She has been with the firm for 15 years, and has worked on BSI's ESG integration team, according to the memo. 

The firm also created two new roles to boost the BSI unit in Asia.

Emily Woodland, previously head of sustainable investing at AMP Capital, as co-head of BlackRock Sustainable Investing (BSI) for the Asia-Pacific region. She will co-lead in that role with Geir Espesko, who has worked as head of Asia-Pacific distribution for iShares and will continue in that role.

Yutaka Naito, a who joined the firm in 2001 and whose LinkedIn profile lists his title as director, was appointed as head of BSI for Japan.

Most major banks and money managers have been building out their sustainable investing teams over several years, as activists and investors have pressured them to actively mitigate the impact of the climate crisis. 

Fink and BlackRock as an institution have become vocal proponents of incorporating ESG considerations into their investments, and have urged companies in which it invests to make similar moves. 

As it has looked to influence how other firms measure their own sustainability, the firm has faced pressure from climate activists who note the firm remains invested in some companies involved in thermal coal production through passively managed funds that track indexes including such companies. 

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