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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Exclusive: Vegan fund denies allegations of links with deforestation-associated corporation

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Beyond Investing, which launched cruelty-free fund US Vegan Climate ETF last year, has rejected accusations of links with deforestation-connected BlackRock.

Vegan investment platform Beyond Investing has strongly denied allegations of funding a corporation linked with the meat and dairy industries and deforestation.

An email from an anonymous source (with the username ’causenoharm’) has been circulating online, accusing Beyond Investing, which launched the world’s first cruelty-free exchange-traded fund, US Vegan Climate ETF (trading as ‘VEGN ETF’), of having holdings in BlackRock, an investment management fund with links to deforestation and shares in meat companies like Tyson Foods.

The anonymous email claimed that Beyond Investing was being hypocritical of its stance of investing in companies that aren’t involved in animal exploitation, weapons manufacturing and fossil fuel use. So far, US Vegan Climate ETF has attracted about $33.5 million, and the email sender said Beyond Investing’s holdings in BlackRock were tenfold than that of its stock in Beyond Meat. Their goal was to get the investment company to pull money out from BlackRock, which has been described as the world’s largest investor in deforestation.

“When organisations pull their money from BlackRock, it isn’t just a win for non-human animals, it’s also a win for civilians being impacted by war, people of colour being disproportionately impacted by climate change and environmental pollution, and indigenous people fighting to preserve their lands,” they said in a statement to The Vegan Review.

But Claire Smith, the CEO of Beyond Investing, unequivocally denied any association with the company. “There is not and there has never been any link between Beyond Investing and Blackrock,” she told The Vegan Review. She added that Beyond Investing is aware of the emails and called it “part of some kind of orchestrated campaign against Beyond Investing, attacking the US Vegan Climate ETF for its holdings in Blackrock”.

The sender had said they reached out to the firm about the same, and Smith confirmed that. She explained how she pointed out “that our holdings are regularly reviewed in the light of [the] latest available data for coherence with our policies”.

“The Index Committee of Beyond Investing regularly reviews publicly available data on companies within the universe of stocks that it considers for the Index, for their adherence, or otherwise, with the Index policies,” said Smith. “In addition to excluding those companies with direct involvement in animal exploitation, fossil fuel and weapons, we investigate the service providers to those companies to determine the level of support provided to these industries.

“As part of this regular review, the largest holders of stocks that are excluded from the Index for reasons of animal exploitation, fossil fuels and weapons were removed from the Index themselves. Blackrock was one of the stocks removed from the Index and hence the US Vegan Climate ETF, which tracks the Index, divested from Blackrock at its recent rebalance.”

She added that it was just part of Beyond Investing’s ongoing monitoring and analysis, which underlies the Index’s construction. In a statement, the anonymous sender commended the firm for divesting its funds from BlackRock.

Anay Mridul
Anay is the managing editor of The Vegan Review. A journalism graduate from City, University of London, he was a barista for three years, and never shuts up about coffee. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford Comma. Originally from India, he went vegan in 2020, after attempting (and failing) Veganuary. He believes being environmentally conscious is a basic responsibility, and veganism is the best thing you can do to battle climate change. He gets lost at Whole Foods sometimes.