My Conversation with Larry Fink

Here’s What Private Sector Leadership Looks Like to Me

Last Wednesday, the Council on Foreign Relations invited me to do a live interview with Larry Fink as part of their 2-day virtual symposium, “Investing in a Sustainable Future.” What a privilege. I’ve admired Larry for a long time, and I’ve always considered him to be a visionary thinker and an inspiring business leader.

As I wrote several weeks ago, I was particularly impressed with Larry’s most recent letter to CEOs and thought it was a clear shot across the bow for companies to get in line with net-zero climate goals. Regular readers of The Instigator know that I favor bold strategies because they make business sense and they’re also what we need. The clock has run out on incremental action. I was curious to probe Larry’s views further — to understand what he sees as the opportunities and limitations of private sector engagement in environmental problem-solving.

I don’t want to try and recap Larry’s words; if you’re curious, have a listen here.

Instead, let me note what I took away from our conversation, some of which was already on my mind, and some of which is a new direction or emphasis for me.

  1. When it comes to environmental goals, we can’t let private companies off the hook. If we’re only leaning on public companies to meet environmental standards, we’re forming a big loophole. In that case, we should expect controversial activities not to be replaced or disappear but to simply migrate from public companies over to private ones where they will be free from scrutiny. In fact, it’s probably happening right now. Carbon-intensive companies are selling assets to private players. But this is highly problematic because it looks like a win, thereby pacifying stakeholders when we should be riled up. It masks the fact that no progress is actually being made and takes the pressure off. So private companies need to step up, and private equity firms should lead the charge. Limited partners investing in private equity (pension funds et al) should push hard for this to happen now.

I am grateful to CFR, and to Larry, for engaging with me on these important issues. It always stretches my thinking.

Did you read Larry’s letter to CEOs? What do you think is the future of corporate-led environmental problem-solving?

Former CEO of The Nature Conservancy CEO. “Nature’s Fortune” author. Family man, yogi, ice climber, vegan.