ACCR seeks to put two resolutions to Santos, Woodside Petroleum AGMs

Are you a shareholder in Santos or Woodside Petroleum? Then the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) would like to hear from you.

ACCR is planning to lodge resolutions at the upcoming May 2019 AGMs of Santos and Woodside Petroleum, asking the companies to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

ACCR is currently campaigning to attract the 100 shareholder signatures for each company necessary to lodge a resolution at the AGM, and ACCR are confident that they will achieve the target, said Daniel Gocher, director of climate and environment at ACCR. Both companies have announced May AGMs, according to their websites.

Shareholder resolutions are a way for individual shareholders to talk directly to the boards of publicly listed companies. ACCR has used the shareholder resolution format to raise awareness for a number of issues, particularly climate change, at AGMs in recent years. Putting a resolution to an AGM means that shareholders can vote on whether they want a board to take action. While no climate-related resolution has yet received a majority of votes, a sizeable minority vote can persuade a board and senior management to engage with active investors to implement directions.

“We have engaged with the companies themselves, and we had lengthy conversations with both of them in early December, and are seeking a follow-up meeting ASAP,” Gocher said. “We know that in terms of their own reporting, Woodside haven’t been explicit in what [targets] are included in their reporting, whereas Santos has been more explicit. Santos will include medium-term targets, but they’re not giving us anymore than that. In terms of the actual companies themselves, we will wait and see what they disclose in their 2018 reporting, but we’re not overly confident that what they’re disclosing will satisfy, or give us what we’re looking for.”

In addition to asking the companies to set targets in line with the goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C, ACCR will also raise questions about the role of industry associations in opposing climate policy in Australia. Santos and Woodside are members of a number of industry groups that take adverse climate positions, including Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) and the Business Council of Australia. ACCR believes that both companies should “monitor the activities of these associations and review their memberships.”Gocher noted that Woodside has committed to report along the TCFD guidelines, but had yet to issue a report with those disclosures.

The possible two resolutions are the first in ACCR’s 2019 AGM campaign season. Gocher said that in addition to their work with Australian companies, ACCR is also working to support international counterparts on their AGM resolutions as well.

Last year, ACCR and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) have co-filed a shareholder resolution calling on Qantas to stop deportations and removals to danger of asylum seekers and refugees.

ACCR filed the shareholder resolutions last month in preparation for this year’s AGM. ACCR and RACS have cited issues of concern including “deportations and removals, where the risks of irreparable harm are most acute; this concern relates to a distinct group of refugees and asylum seekers denied a proper legal process to make claims to refugee status in Australia; and transporting people between places of indefinite detention (both onshore and offshore), where complicity in human rights violations is all but assured.” The resolution seeks to amend Qantas’ constitution to permit shareholders to “express an opinion, ask for information or make a request about the way in which a power of the company partially or exclusively vested in the directors has been or should be exercised.” It has also filed a second resolution asking the board to “commit to engaging a heightened due diligence process in relation to any involuntary transportation activity it is involved in as a service provider to the Australian Department of Home Affairs.”

The resolution to Qantas received 6.43% votes in favour.