By Simon Jessop
LONDON (Reuters) – Paul Bodnar, the head of sustainability policy and engagement at BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, is to join tech mogul Jeff Bezos’ $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund, a memo to staff on Friday reviewed by Reuters shows.
The April move will mark the end of a two-year stint at the company for Bodnar, who was previously global head of BlackRock Sustainable Investing. He took up his most recent role during a reorganisation of BlackRock’s sustainability efforts in October.
It follows a tough time for the company as it faces pressure from campaigners to push for faster climate action by companies, and concern from some U.S. politicians that doing so could impact investor returns.
The memo said BlackRock assets invested through its dedicated sustainable investing platform now stood at around $500 billion, out of its roughly $8.6 trillion in assets, and that Bodnar had been “central to that success”.
“Paul approached us recently with a plan to return to his career path in the impact world, and today it will be announced that he will be joining the Bezos Earth Fund to oversee programs that involve collaboration among financial services, the real economy and governments,” the memo said.
In a LinkedIn post announcing his move, Bodnar said his role at the Bezos Earth Fund, set up in 2020 with a donation from the Amazon founder, would see him lead the organisations’s work on climate finance, industry and diplomacy.
Calling his exit from BlackRock “bittersweet”, Bodnar said the company had “changed the way the financial sector thinks about sustainability” and was “one of the first to recognize the potential for climate risk to reshape finance”.
“It has also been steadfast about the difficult realities of the transition and the need to retain a laser focus on fiduciary duty, even amidst intense public debates about whether asset managers are doing too much, or too little, to address climate change.”
The Bezos Earth Fund, “the largest philanthropic commitment ever to be deployed in the areas of climate and nature”, according to the BlackRock memo, is led by Chief Executive Andrew Steer and made its first grants in November 2020.
Its website says it has so far given out more than 100 grants totalling just over $1.6 billion in areas including conserving and protecting nature, transforming agricultural processes and addressing environmental justice.
(Reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Mark Potter)