The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) has joined hedge fund activist investor Chris Hohn’s Children’s Investment Fund Foundation’s (CIFF) Say on Climate initiative to campaign for company transparency on climate reporting and annual non-binding votes by shareholders.
ACCR’s first shareholder resolutions for 2021 have been filed to Santos (ASX: STO) and Woodside Petroleum (ASX: WPL), asking for an annual vote on the adoption of a Climate Report consistent with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and the Climate Action 100+ Net-Zero Company Benchmark as developed by institutional investors.
At a minimum the report would need to address the company’s greenhouse gas emissions and the company’s proposed strategy to reduce its emissions, which would then be voted on by shareholders.
Santos has committed to net zero emissions by 2040 and Woodside by 2050, however currently Australian law does not compel adequate disclosures of how emissions reductions will be met.
Commenting on the resolutions, Dan Gocher, Director of Climate and Environment, said:
“There is currently no legal obligation on major polluters to disclose climate-related risks. While Santos and Woodside have both committed to net zero emissions by 2040 and 2050, respectively, neither company has disclosed a concrete plan to get there.
“Santos and Woodside have steadfastly refused to address the largest part of their carbon footprint—the Scope 3 emissions from the oil and gas they sell—despite investors demanding they take action.
“The targets they have set amount to business-as-usual, relying largely on buying cheap carbon offsets in the short term, and unproven technologies—that can’t seem to stack up without government subsidies—like carbon, capture and storage (CCS), in the long term. Yet shareholders have no formal mechanism to object to these plans.
“Due to the rapid transition taking place in the energy sector, it is imperative that shareholders are provided with the information required to assess the future earnings and value of these companies.
“The Say on Climate framework will provide shareholders with the opportunity to send a clear signal to the board about whether the company is effectively managing the risks of climate change.”
Why Say on Climate in Australia
Few major Australian listed companies have made credible commitments, supported by detailed plans, to align their activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Australian law does not compel companies to disclose in line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), nor to set meaningful and realistic emissions reduction targets.
In this context, Say on Climate is an attractive mechanism to promote change in the behaviour of Australian companies. Delivered successfully at scale, it has the potential to drive transformational change in major companies’ approach to emissions disclosure and planning, across the Australian market.
- The management of climate risk by major companies has portfolio-wide and economy-wide implications.
- These resolutions are designed to ensure that, in the absence of law reform, immediate investor demand for information to be disclosed in a timely and consistent fashion is met, so that a structured conversation between companies and their shareholders can take place.
- An annual vote would allow shareholders to express their approval or disapproval of the company’s decarbonisation strategy
- For example, both Santos and Woodside intend to rely heavily on offsets in the short term, and CCS in the long term. There is a lot of shareholder chatter about the deficiencies in this approach, but no established formal avenues to express concern.
Say on Climate is a major, global climate-corporate governance initiative launched in 2020 by TCI Fund Management, the activist fund run by Chris Hohn, and its charitable foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (UK) (CIFF).
The aim of the initiative is to generate a widespread increase in focus of listed companies and their investors on developing and delivering Paris-aligned plans, with increased accountability around substance of and performance against those plans through annual shareholder votes.
The precedent for this approach was set by TCI’s work at the Spanish airport group, Aena’s AGM in October 2020, where the resolution to introduce this requirement received 98% support after it was endorsed by the company’s board.
Companies which have voluntarily adopted a shareholder vote:
Resolutions have been filed with a number of companies globally, and statements of support made by various asset managers and asset owners (see Attachment). Mark Carney (UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance) is a public supporter of the initiative.
Learn about global Say on Climate activity on their website.