Published on 21 May 2018

SUSTAINABLE FINANCE

Climate, oil and shareholder influence: the shell test

On 22 May, Shell’s General Assembly will be the centre of a standoff between shareholders who want to push the company towards a climate strategy compatible with the Paris Agreement and those who do not want to oppose the group’s leadership. The outcome of the vote for this climate resolution, which was filed by the Dutch environmental NGO, Follow This, will be the deciding factor. For three years, the NGO has tried to force the oil company to implement plausible 2°C strategies.

 

 

Follow This Shell
The NGO, Follow This, is pushing Shell shareholders to vote in favour of a real 2°C strategy.
@FollowThis

"Shareholders, make your votes consistent with your public statements.  Support resolution 19 for the climate," says Catherine Howarth, director of Share Action, who participated in the draft campaign submitted to Shell shareholders by the environmental NGO, Follow This, on 22 May. She is putting all her strength into the battle, convincing shareholders to send a strong message: "Investors in the Carbon Action 100+ initiative have every reason to support this resolution and tell boards around the world that climate change is an economic and financial topic."

The 2018 General Assembly is, in a way, the third round of a fight that began in 2015. That year, the Aiming for A coalition tabled a resolution asking Shell to produce a climate report. It received 98.9% of the votes. This unexpected success can be explained both by the level of mobilisation that preceded the Paris Agreement, and above all, by Shell executives’ decision to support the draft.

Shareholders face contradiction

Two years later, Follow This took over the fight but ran into opposition from the company, which disputed the desire to turn itself into a renewable energy producer. In 2017, mobilisation by the most committed investors, including Caisse des Dépôts group, did not garner enough votes and the resolution was supported by only 7% of shareholders.

In 2018, the result of this vote could expose contradictions from top investors, as they choose between Shell, which opposed a resolution that would force them into a rapid energy transition, and their very own public engagements on climate. This will give a new dimension to the debate regarding the most effective ways of reducing companies' greenhouse gas emissions.

Should investors keep their shares of the most carbo-intensive companies to force evolution from within or should they sell them and exclude an entire industry from their portfolios; one that is becoming increasingly profitable due to the rise in oil prices?

Whatever the method of action, the most important objective remains the Paris Agreement. But keeping global warming below 2°C implies challenging the oil-dependent model on a global scale. It is with this factor that Shell’s General Assembly vote will test the will of everyone concerned in accelerating the movement.

Anne-Catherine Husson-Traore, @AC_HT, CEO of Novethic


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