The responsible investment landscape is changing amid climate-change governance risks. We wrote a letter, supported by 60 asset managers and owners, urging the oil industry to address climate change concerns.

What’s the Issue?

At Newton, we believe active investment plays a crucial role in identifying the future risks and opportunities of climate change for investors. Where we believe companies are ineffectively managing their climate-related risks or opportunities, we will engage to seek further information and more comprehensive action. One recent example provides a good case study of collaborating with other investors to create a wide-reaching, global impact.

How Did We Engage?

In the run-up to the oil companies’ 2018 AGMs, we wanted to strongly encourage the oil industry to take full responsibility for its emissions and to improve the transparency of reporting in this area. As members of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), we have been supporting the Climate 100+ campaign to target the 100 most significant contributors to climate change. Across the whole of Newton, we own securities in fewer than ten of these companies. We carry out engagement work with these businesses at an individual level, but we wanted to make a bigger impact. To do this, we collaborated with our industry contacts to garner support for a public letter. We believe that collaboration of this sort is an effective way to maintain pressure on the industry, and that it bolsters the overall campaign for greater climate change awareness. One of our responsible investment analysts worked alongside counterparts from another large asset manager to rally other investors to support these aims.

What Was the Outcome?

The outcome of this work was a letter,1  supported by 60 asset managers and owners with combined assets of over $10.5 trillion. The letter gained excellent traction in the global press, first being published by the Financial Times and then by other media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Reuters. Crucially, we were particularly pleased to hear from Christiana Figueres (chair of the Paris COP21 negotiations) that the letter was discussed by large oil company CEOs.

The letter urged the oil and gas industry to be more transparent and take responsibility for its emissions. Given that some of the largest oil and gas companies held their annual shareholder meetings in the weeks following the letter’s publication, it was an opportune moment for these companies to raise climate change issues and position themselves for a low-carbon future. In particular, we discussed a vote at Royal Dutch Shell’s meeting on which investors would be deciding whether the company should set firm carbon emissions targets in alignment with the Paris Accord. We also encouraged all companies in this sector to clarify where they see their future in a low-carbon world, including concrete commitments and actions to improve climate change issues.

In 2019, we used our voting power to table a resolution at another large energy company’s AGM, calling for the company to address its emissions and share its business model for a low-carbon world. The resolution passed with 99.1% support, making clear how important these questions are to shareholders.

With many investors embracing their responsibility to support the Paris Agreement, it is time for oil and gas companies to do the same. Climate change remains a key area of focus for us, and the work we have undertaken with the oil and gas industry shows our commitment to creating positive change and productively engaging with companies to improve outcomes in this area.

1 – published 18/05/18

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