BlackRock and Microsoft aim to plug data gaps on water stress with new research competition

Investment and tech giants will give out grants in partnership with World Resources Institute

BlackRock is teaming up with Microsoft and the World Resources Institute (WRI) to help develop new datasets on water stress in emerging markets. 

Research from WRI finds that 17 countries – home to one-quarter of the world’s population – face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress. 

Speaking to RI, Mary-Catherine Lader, Head of Aladdin Sustainability at BlackRock, said last year it partnered with Microsoft to create grant funding for research projects to advance the availability of sustainability data where there were gaps. 

“We have decided to initially focus on water stress,” she said. “So we’ve closed a partnership with the World Resources Institute and Microsoft to fund a research competition to develop new datasets on water stress in emerging markets.”

She said the grants will be awarded in the Spring. 

The news comes as BlackRock on Friday announced its first investment into a sustainability-focused company with a minority shareholding in technology house Clarity AI. 

Lader said: “Our conviction as a firm is that sustainability is the future of investing. In the same way that risk perspectives have developed over the past several decades, we really want to contribute to developing sustainability as a critical lens on investing. 

“And that’s what Clarity AI does. Their tools and software allows for an unique breadth and sophistication. We believe in their mission that there is an opportunity to be more precise about companies’ social and environmental impact and there’s a need for tools to do that.”

Clarity AI, founded by tech entrepreneur Rebeca Minguela in 2017, also has backing from Deustche Börse, Founders Fund and others. 

Minguela told RI that Clarity AI was focused on addressing the impact of investments as well the risks, and aligned with sustainability-focused regulation such as the EU Taxonomy and disclosure requirements.