UK investors have voted at BHP’s London AGM on a resolution calling for the company to end its funding of coal advocacy groups. The Australian entity will face the same questions at its Melbourne AGM on 16 November. The results of the vote will be revealed after the Melbourne AGM.
Two resolutions were requisitioned by Australian non-profit organisation, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR). They appeared as resolutions 22 and 23 on the AGM’s agenda.
Read the resolutions and supporting statements here.
Resolution 22, allowing advisory resolutions to be put to an Australian AGM. Presently, through narrow reading of common law, such resolutions are not permitted in Australia.
Resolution 23, on BP’s membership of industry groups, called on the company to reveal the amount of funds paid to industry groups, and to terminate memberships of groups where significant misalignment is evident.
Mr Daniel Wiseman, an Australian-qualified lawyer with London-based NGO Client Earth, made remarks on behalf of ACCR. He attended the meeting as a proxyholder. Mr Wiseman’s remarks are below. Representatives of HSBC and CCLA each made supportive comments in relation to ACCR’s resolution.
Ms Brynn O’Brien, Executive Director of ACCR, said, “We’re pleased that our resolution drew the attention and the votes of some significant shareholders, including USD$340billion fund CalPERS, at the UK entity’s AGM today. However, the main game is the Australian AGM on 16 November in Melbourne.”
“This is a resolution put by Australian shareholders, to BHP, to deal with an Australian problem. Australian investors cannot shirk their responsibility. BHP’s investors are fully aware of the damage that the Minerals Council of Australia continues to do democracy, the environment, and BHP’s bottom line. They need to step in to stop BHP shelling out millions of dollars to the Minerals Council each year,” Ms O’Brien said.
Statement of Mr Wiseman
Thank you Mr Chairman. Daniel Wiseman, of Client Earth, attending by proxy. I am reading a statement prepared by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, who assisted a group of 100 Australian shareholders in BHP Billiton Limited to propose resolutions 22 and 23.
Resolution 22 is required under Australian law to give a group of shareholders the right to propose advisory resolutions for consideration at the company’s AGM. Such resolutions are allowed under company law in the US and the UK but are illegal in Australia. Such advisory resolutions give the board an insight into what shareholders think – in a formal, democratic fashion — and we commend the resolution to our fellow shareholders as a way of showing support for equality of shareholder rights around the world.
Turning to Resolution 23: we note that the Board states in the Notice of Meeting its support for some elements of this advisory resolution. ACCR commends and thanks the Board for its commitment to a review of industry body memberships.
The shareholders that requisitioned this resolution are concerned by the misalignment between our company’s industry-leading position and actions on climate change, and those of industry groups of which it is a member.
In Australia, we have had a decade of climate and energy policy chaos, caused in large part by the influence of industry lobby groups, funded by our company, whose activities have impinged upon and undermined national policy settings. Just this week, the Australian government, pushed by the Minerals Council of Australia, abandoned the central recommendation of its Chief Scientist to set a Clean Energy Target in order to implement Australia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. Our company is the largest funder of this industry group, whose positions on climate change and the continued use of coal in Australia are in direct contrast to those of our company.
Misalignment between the company’s position as represented to shareholders and the activities of industry groups of which it is member have the potential to cause reputational risk to the company, as well as to damage its financial interests. In this context, a review alone is insufficient. The Australian shareholders who have proposed this resolution believe that an objective terms of reference, with additional transparency and a threshold, albeit a high one, for termination of memberships where misalignment is identified, is required.
To this end, we commend resolution 23 to our fellow shareholders.
Question asked by Mr Wiseman
Do you believe that national policy settings are important in curbing climate change, and, if so, will you terminate funding to groups which do not align with the company’s climate position and may cause damage to our company’s interests?