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Investors pressuring financial firms on fossil fuels

Investors pressuring financial firms on fossil fuels

Sarah Simpkins
— 1 minute read

Shareholders have been urged to revolt against QBE Insurance Group’s investment in fossil fuels in the lead up to its annual general meeting, in a campaign which is also targeting the big four banks and Macquarie Group.

Advocacy group Market Forces in conjunction with Australian Ethical is asking shareholders to raise the issue of exposure to non-renewable energy; putting forward resolutions that shareholders will then be able to vote on at company annual general meetings.  

One of the resolutions made to QBE, which require a minimum of 100 shareholders to lodge, have asked for exposure reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

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“Shareholders request that the company disclose short-, medium- and long-term targets to reduce investment and underwriting exposure to coal, oil and gas assets, along with plans and progress to achieve the targets set,” the resolution read.

“This information should be published annually, starting with the 2019 annual report.”

Also on the table is an amendment to the company’s constitution that is required to enact the resolution and would give shareholders the right to seek information or propose resolutions.  

The call for exposure to be directed away from non-renewable energy reflects a greater trend in investing, with more than 100 major global financial institutions having introduced policies restricting coal funding.

“Other insurers and banks around the world have set clear restrictions and targets, recognising the challenges to their business and to society from dangerous climate change,” Stuart Palmer, head of Ethics Research at Australian Ethical said.

“Investors want to see the same from QBE.”

QBE has told its shareholders that it will be considering the two resolutions at its AGM on 9 May, saying the board will be providing its recommendations within its notice of meeting in early April.

The company has previously enacted a climate change plan, as published in its 2018 annual report.

A shareholder resolution last year had pushed QBE to start disclosing the risk it faces from climate change.

Mr Palmer said that although it is encouraging that QBE has the development of climate metrics and targets by 2021 in its climate plan, more urgency and clarity is needed.

On shareholder resolutions, Julien Vincent, executive director and lead campaigner at Market Forces said: “It is becoming more mainstream and shareholders are holding companies to account, they have expectations for how they manage their capital.” 

 

Investors pressuring financial firms on fossil fuels
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