Active ownership: how we voted on climate issues in 2023
Schroders has voted on a number of climate-related issues in 2023, from reducing methane emissions to facilitating a just transition. Our active ownership team reflects on some of these voting decisions.
Voting on shareholder resolutions is a core pillar of our engagement strategy, as it can provide us with a forum to use our voice to express our positions on key issues to companies’ management teams.
We have seen the number of climate-related shareholder resolutions filed at companies steadily increase covering a range of ongoing issues. These include requests for Paris-aligned target setting and climate lobbying disclosure, as well as new, more nuanced asks such as methane emissions disclosure. Below we discuss some trends and reflections on proxy voting on climate issues globally.
New and emerging themes
Methane emissions reduction and disclosure
A theme that we’ve seen appear at several energy company annual general meetings (AGMs) this year concerns methane emissions reduction. Resolutions have asked companies to reduce and disclose their methane emissions as well as provide transparency around the reliability of existing disclosures. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted during the production and transportation of natural gas, coal and oil and has therefore gained attention due to its substantial contribution to climate change. An example resolution filed at Targa Resources asked for the company to report on efforts to reduce methane emission venting and flaring in the supply chain. These resolutions reflect a growing investor interest in wider energy sector decarbonisation and the need for transparency to holistically assess emission reductions across the full GHG inventory.
Environmental litigation costs
An interesting resolution theme that came up this year involved shareholders requesting companies to report on the potential costs of environmental litigation they could face. These resolutions reflect the rising number of lawsuits being filed against companies for their lack of demonstrable climate-related progress. Shareholders are increasingly concerned about the legal and financial risks associated with environmental damage and the potential impact it could have on a company's overall performance. We have supported resolutions of this nature as they help investors to better understand the potential financial and legal risks a company could face in future.
Recalculating GHG emissions baseline
There were several resolutions this year which asked that companies should recalculate their GHG emissions baseline to exclude emissions from material divestitures. This reflects a growing interest in and need for accurate and comprehensive emissions reporting that considers changes in a company's asset portfolio. We supported all proposals of this nature as transparency would provide an up-to-date emissions baseline of the company’s existing assets and an accurate picture of climate-related risk.
Climate resolutions at oil and gas majors and our voting approach
Climate resolutions are typically filed at oil and gas companies encouraging them to align their business strategies with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celcius. During the 2023 AGM, five resolutions were filed at Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron and TotalEnergies asking the companies to set medium-term scope 3 emission reduction targets.
Our voting approach: Our Engagement Blueprint defines our approach to shareholder resolutions and outlines the framework that is used to evaluate individual resolutions. Following our assessment of the five resolutions as well as insights gathered from our ongoing engagements with the companies, we decided to:
- Vote in favour of the resolutions filed at ExxonMobil and Chevron as we believe the companies have not yet made sufficient progress against our climate expectations. Stronger evidence of climate-related risk management and disclosures are required.
- Vote against the resolutions filed at Shell, BP and Total Energies as we were satisfied with the companies’ overarching long-term climate strategy, disclosure and targets. However, we are continuing to encourage management to accelerate growth in the low carbon and clean energy businesses.
The Just Transition and our voting approach
This year has also seen more shareholder proposals addressing the need to facilitate a fust transition. For example:
Our voting approach: We have supported all shareholder proposals asking companies to take into consideration the social aspects of the transition as we are keen to see companies set out plans to consult and support impacted workers including opportunities for reskilling or upskilling for new jobs. While we recognise that the social impacts of climate change vary by sector and region, we believe that companies that prepare their workforces and develop strong relations with affected communities will be better placed to manage social impacts of the transition and better protect the long-term value of investments.
The climate proposals issued during 2023 AGMs reflect the evolving priorities of shareholders and their growing recognition of the importance of climate action and sustainable business practices. This year, we have also disclosed several of our climate resolutions to illustrate the context and rationale behind some of our voting decisions. They can be found here.
Any reference to regions/ countries/ sectors/ stocks/ securities is for illustrative purposes only and not a recommendation to buy or sell any financial instruments or adopt a specific investment strategy.
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The views and opinions contained herein are those of Schroders’ investment teams and/or Economics Group, and do not necessarily represent Schroder Investment Management North America Inc.’s house views. These views are subject to change. This information is intended to be for information purposes only and it is not intended as promotional material in any respect.