The founder of a huge investment fund just made a very important announcement, and my instintive reaction was…

Mr. Fink, founder and chief executive of the BlackRock firm, which manages more than $6 trillion in investments worldwide, writes that

“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose…To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” Basically, Mr Fink is saying that Blackrock will invest preferably in companies that behave responsibly.

Timeo Blackrock et dona ferentes…

The Blackrock letter, in one sentence... /img/timeo-danaos-et-dona-ferentes.jpg

My instinctive, gut-level translation of the statements above is

“we of Blackrock want to control and redefine the meaning of “social purpose” and “positive contribution to society”, to make sure that they don’t evolve against our core interests”.

Mr. Fink’s declaration that he is seeing

“many governments failing to prepare for the future, on issues ranging from retirement and infrastructure to automation and worker retraining [and] As a result, society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges”

makes little to reassure me. In a sense, this is the same “hold my beer while I save the world” attitude we’ve seeing in Silicon Valley for years now. At the same time, it may be dangerous to snob this plan entirely, instead of trying to steer at least some tiny part of it towards a version of Common Good that doesn’t rely exclusively on “companies and private sector”. Therefore, I hereby suggest as inputs to define “positive contributions to society”:

In any case, it will be interesting to see how this Blackrock master plan evolves.