Shareholder Activism

Ethinvest is committed to promoting and upholding responsible environmental, social and corporate governance practices and see our shareholder advocacy as a powerful way to effect positive changes. 

Shareholder Activism FY2022

This page lists companies Ethinvest engaged with throughout FY2022, both in cooperation with and on behalf of clients and associated organisations. ​

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BHP Billiton Ltd

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution with BHP in August 2021. The resolution was lodged by Market Forces, calling on the company to manage down its fossil fuel production in line with its stated support for net-zero emissions and the Paris Climate Agreement.

You can find the Market Forces article here

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AGL Energy Ltd

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution at AGL Energy’s AGM in September 2021. The resolution, proposed by ACCR, received support from 55% of shareholders, demanding the company sets targets to reduce its gargantuan emissions in line with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. Remarkably, this is the highest shareholder vote against an Australian company's board in favour of a climate-related resolution.

You can find the ACCR article here

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South 32 Ltd

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution at South32’s AGM in October 2021. The climate related resolution, proposed by ACCR, called on South32 to ensure the advocacy of its industry associations is consistent with the Paris Agreement. The resolution received an incredible 98.21% support from shareholders. This resolution will ensure that South32’s memberships with industry associations that actively undermine effective climate action in Australia are suspended, and forms part of ACCR’s ‘Say on Climate’ initiative, introduced earlier in the year.

You can find the ACCR article here

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Incitec Pivot Ltd

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution at Incitec Pivot’s AGM in October 2021. The resolution was brought forward by ACCR, asking the company to provide an annual disclosure of emissions, a strategy to reduce these emissions, and an annual vote on their climate plan.

You can find the ACCR article here

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Whitehaven Coal Ltd

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution at Whitehaven Coal’s AGM in October 2021. The resolution was put forward by Market Forces to manage down their coal assets to be in line with a net zero emissions target by 2050 and was supported by 10% of shareholders. Whitehaven’s CEO Paul Flynn stated to shareholders that the company’s position is to support net zero emissions by 2050. However its pursuit of new coal mining projects contradicts the IEA’s net zero findings and suggests Flynn’s statement to be more 'greenwashing' than substantive.

You can find the Market Forces article here

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Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution at CBA’s AGM in October 2021. This resolution, proposed by Market Forces, was to put pressure on the bank to reduce fossil fuel finance consistent with net-zero by 2050 and to stop funding new fossil projects. 15% of investors, representing $26 billion of investment, supported the resolution. The bank also faced a barrage of questions from campaigners, climate experts, activists and project-impacted communities regarding CBA's ongoing funding for fossil fuels.

You can read more about the resolution here

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Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution at ANZ’s AGM in October 2021.The resolution, put forward by Market Forces, called on ANZ to stop funding new fossil fuel projects and reduce exposure to the coal, oil and gas sectors consistent with the global goal of net-zero by 2050. The resolution received a 28.9% vote in support, almost doubling the support received by a similar resolutions coordinated by Market Forces and lodged with ANZ last year.

You can find the Market Forces article here

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Fortescue Metals Group Limited 

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution at FMG’s AGM in November 2021. This resolution was brought forward by ACCR, calling on the company to support the Western Australian government to pause the enactment of the draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2020 in its current form.  The resolution instead asked that FMG engage in good faith with WA Aboriginal Traditional Owners and their heritage protection law. This resolution was filed with the support of the National Native Title Council and the WA Aboriginal Heritage Alliance, and achieved 15.62% support at the AGM.

You can find the Market Forces article here

Rio Tinto Limited

Ethinvest and our clients were prepared to participate in a shareholder resolution with Rio Tinto in January 2022. The resolution, proposed by Market forces, was withdrawn as following close engagement with Rio Tinto, they provided more clarity around the climate risk its customer’s emissions pose to Rio Tinto’s business and how they plan to manage that risk. Market Forces will continue to engage with and push for further disclosure of clear quantitative targets or thresholds in line with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

Woodside Petroleum Limited

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution with Woodside in February 2022. The resolution, proposed by Market Forces, called on Woodside to manage down oil and gas production in line with global climate goals. Even though 19% of investors voted in favour of this, Woodside has decided to pursue a merger that drastically increases their oil and gas production capacity, approving billion dollar projects that are incompatible with the Paris Agreement’s climate goals. Market Forces will continue to work towards climate action change with Woodside.

You can find the Market Forces article here.

Santos Limited

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution with Santos in February 2022. The resolution, proposed by Market Forces, was similar to the one proposed to Woodside: to manage down oil and has production in line with global climate goals and even though 13% of investors voted in favour of this, Woodside has decided to pursue a merger that drastically increases their oil and gas production capacity, approving billion dollar projects that are incompatible with the Paris Agreement’s climate goals. Market Forces will continue to pursue climate action change with Santos.

You can find the Market Forces article here.

QBE Insurance Group Limited

Ethinvest and our clients participated in a shareholder resolution with QBE Insurance in February 2022. The resolution, proposed by Market Forces alongside Australian Ethical, addressed the inconsistency between QBE’s oil and gas exposure and its stated commitment to global climate goals. As unfortunately the insurance company remains open to insuring oil and gas projects. QBE has stated its support for the Paris Agreement, but their willing to underwrite new oil and gas production undermines their statements to deal with the climate crisis. Even though this resolution had the support of over 100 shareholders, Market Forces was unsuccessful in their resolution and so will also continue to engage with QBE for much greater climate action.

You can find the Market Forces article here.

Woodside Petroleum Limited

Ethinvest and our clients actively (and in-person!) voted on the Market-forces coordinated shareholder resolution at Woodside’s AGM in May 2022. An incredible “49% of Woodside’s shareholders rejected the company’s utterly inadequate approach to climate change, the largest vote against any Say on Climate proposal in the world so far,” commented Market Forces Asset Management Campaigner, Will van de Pol. 14.5% of shareholders also demanded Woodside to start winding down its oil and gas productions to be line with achieving a new zero emissions by 2050.

 

You can find the Market Forces article here.

Proxies

Ethinvest facilitates the appointment of proxies to campaigners who would like to be able to directly question the board at an AGM. The list below includes the different companies that we were able to do this for throughout FY2022.

Macquarie Group Ltd

Shareholders asked the board about its support for the oil and gas industries, and the inconsistencies between this support and its commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. Macquarie's CEO, Shemara Wikramanayake, failed to rule out further funding for the projects, instead indicating that Macquarie would only adopt and release their Net Zero Plan by the end of 2022.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Shareholders asked Commonwealth Bank about its ongoing funding for fossil fuels and why they are not consistent with the net zero by 2050 goal the bank has previously committed to. 

APA Group 

Ethinvest assisted local landholders in attending APA Group’s AGM in October 2021 to lobby against the Western Slopes Gas Pipeline which will threaten their underground water and farmland. Activists are rightly concerned about APA’s plans to expand their gas infrastructure and challenged their capacity to manage transitional climate change risks. APA avoided answering many climate related questions directly, failed to agree that their actions go against the Paris Agreement and failed to prioritise funding for renewable energy over gas.

Beach Energy Ltd

Activists attended Beach Energy’s AGM to challenge their expansion plans that are not line with reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Unfortunately these questions have not stopped Beach Energy from pressing ahead with its plans to almost double production by 2024.

Nextdc Ltd

Campaigners asked the NextDC board at their AGM in November 2021 about their carbon neutral claims and their reliance on offsets to make those claims. Greenpeace helped to facilitate these questions.  They called on NextDC to establish short-term 100% renewable electricity targets, phase out the use of fossil fuels, work on zero emissions or as near zero emissions as possible, and for emissions that are entirely unavoidable, invest in high-quality domestic offsets that are well-regulated and continue to move towards true carbon-zero.

Premier Investments Limited

Activists and ActionAid staff attended the Premier Investment’s AGM to ask when the company if it will sign the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry. 

Scentre Group

Ethinvest provided proxies to Collective Shout to attend the Scentre Group AGM in April. The Scentre Group owns the Westfield shopping centres in Australia and New Zealand and are allowing for the lingerie brand, Honey Birdette, to use sexually exploitative advertising on their store fronts within Westfields. Honey Birdette’s advertising has breached 50 sections of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics. Collective Shout asked direct questions to the board about their ongoing and defiant promotion of the objectification and degradation of women in their advertisements.  

Black Mountain Energy

Ethinvest provided a proxy to attend the Black Mountain Energy AGM in May. The proxy asked a direct question to the board concerning their plans to frack in the Kimberley near the Fitzroy River, including a gas pipeline from the Kimberley to Karratha to export the fracked gas. Unfortunately the proxy was given a vague response along the lines that there will be announcements to come.

Letters and Direct Communication

Ethinvest regularly corresponds with companies and other entities to request information on ethical concerns. The list below includes the entities that we have engaged with so far in  FY2022.

New Hope Coal

In July 2021,the Environmental Defenders Office, on behalf of our friends at Market Forces, wrote to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) requesting an investigation into potentially misleading or deceptive statements, made by New Hope’s CEO, Reinhold Schmidt, over the future of coal. The company was misleading investors by claiming that coal would “remain a significant part of the energy mix”.

Australian Ethical 

Ethinvest wrote directly to Australian Ethical this year regarding their Australian Shares Fund and Emerging Companies Fund in relation to the holdings in Westpac and NAB. Australian Ethical responded by saying they use a climate scorecard which looks at the way banks facilitate financing to the fossil fuel sector, renewable energy and energy storage, and technologies and activities which reduce energy usage or store carbon. Australian Ethical also consider banks’ support for government climate policy aligned with the Paris Agreement – both directly and indirectly through participation in industry associations.

 

Westpac has been the largest financier to greenfield renewable energy projects in Australia over the past two years, committing $9.3 billion to climate change solutions and progressing towards its target of $25 billion by 2030. More than 75% of Westpac’s lending to the electricity sector goes to renewable projects (up from 59% three years ago) and for NAB the figure is 69% (up from 43% in 2015). 

Largely as a result of their assessment, they currently exclude ANZ and CBA for ethical reasons – but continue to invest in Westpac and NAB.

Ethinvest continues to engage with Australian Ethical to initiate change for a more positive outcome.

Santos Limited 

In March 2022, Ethinvest made direct communication with Partners Group to bring to their immediate attention their lack of diversity amongst their Investment Committee and the great importance for all stakeholders to improve this.

ETF Securities

In July 2021, Ethinvest initiated engagement with ETF Securities in relation to its new ESG screening process for the Battery Tech & Lithium ETF (ACDC). Ethinvest raised concerns surrounding ACDC’s existing exposure to weapons manufacturing, tobacco, and a very high exposure to thermal coal extraction. Based on our concerns and feedback, in May 2022 ETFs Securities adapted its screening of the portfolio, which resulted in the removal of investments with military exposure. Some 692 global equities were excluded in line with this new standard. ETF also revised its ESG standard to exclude exposure to thermal coal extraction.

Wilson Asset Management

In May 2022, Ethinvest attended the Wilson Asset Management (WAM) Vault Live and Future Generation Live presentation – the first in-person shareholding briefing held by WAM in 3 years. In front of 150 shareholders, we questioned whether the Future Generation investment committee has adopted any ethical screening parameters for their underlying investments, especially since the fund also invests in youth & children charities. The chair admitted to having gambling exposures and the investment committee representative could not provide a definitive answer to improving their ESG screening going forward.

Access previous years updates by clicking below: