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Australia: Growing support amongst large institutional investors for shareholder & NGO campaigns on climate & human rights

Author: Ruth Williams, The Sydney Morning Herald, Published on: 25 February 2018

"Big investors backed shareholder campaigns on climate, human rights", 23 February 2018

…A resolution lobbed by a tiny group of retail shareholders coordinated by a Canberra NGO, questioning BHP's membership of groups like the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) and its response to climate change…

…Votes backing the resolution...reached a discomfiting level of almost 10 per cent.

These sorts of shareholder resolutions, targeting environmental and social issues, have in the past attracted little support in Australia - on occasion getting less than 1 per cent of the vote.

But…support for them is spreading beyond the ethical investment and activist realms to the mainstream. There are more resolutions being filed and, investors say, the tiny NGOs coordinating them are getting better at drafting resolutions that investors will actually vote for...institutions world-wide, keen to burnish their responsible investor credentials, are becoming more willing to flex their muscles on so-called "ESG" - environment, social and governance - issues.

Kristian Fok, chief investment officer at CBUS - which is active in investor groups targeting climate change risk….says…CBUS supports…push to give shareholders the power to lodge non-binding advisory motions at AGMs. "Shareholders have successfully used this mechanism in other jurisdictions to make improvements on important issues such as climate change and human rights," Fok says.

Deutsche Asset Management...has made measuring climate change risk a priority.

"If a company has good governance in place, then usually environmental and social issues are also covered and taken care of," says the group's head of corporate governance, Nicolas Huber…

"We take a close look at each proposal, and if it is transparency related, and helps reduce environmental and social risks, then we support it."

[also refers to Elliott Management, Woolworths Limited, Commonwealth Bank, Oil Search, Origin Energy, Westpac, Deutsche Bank, Nordea Bank, Schroders, HSBC, Wells Fargo, Aviva, Morgan Stanley, Rio Tinto, QBE Insurance, Santos, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum, Colonial First State, MLC (part of National Australia Bank), AMP Group, Macquarie Bank, ABP, Blackrock, Vanguard, State Street and Colonial First State]

Read the full post here

Related companies: ABP AMP Group Aviva BHP (formerly BHP Billiton) BlackRock Colonial First State Commonwealth Bank Deutsche Bank Elliott Management ExxonMobil HSBC Macquarie Bank MLC (part of National Australia Bank) Morgan Stanley Nordea Bank Occidental Petroleum Oil Search Origin Energy QBE Insurance Rio Tinto Santos Schroders State Street Vanguard Wells Fargo Westpac Woolworths Group Australia