BHP’s Australian shareholders vote to stay in industry lobby groups

November 8, 2019

Australian shareholders at BHP mirrored their counterparts in London and voted against a resolution that would have forced the company to drop its membership in industry groups that advocate policies counter to Paris climate accord treaty targets.

Nearly 73 percent of the votes counted at BHP’s annual general meeting in Sydney, Australia rejected the resolution. At the London AGM, only 22.16 percent of votes supported the motion. Reuters reported that the Sydney gathering represented about 58 percent of all BHP shareholders, with the remaining 42 percent in London.

Many mining companies have faced pressure from ethical investors. In BHP’s case, Standard Life Aberdeen, one of its largest investors, spoke in favor of the resolution that BHP’s membership in some industry organizations funds pro-coal lobbying.

“Climate change is a complex problem,” Chairman Ken MacKenzie said at the Sydney AGM. “If we are to successfully develop solutions we need to collaborate. We need to work together. And industry associations provide a vital forum for that collaboration.”

Following the vote in London in October, MacKenzie argued that the company could be more influential from within.

“Climate change is a complex problem. If we’re going to develop successful solutions, we need to collaborate,” Chairman Ken MacKenzie said (ME, Oct. 17, 2019).

He repeated BHP’s view that it is easier to influence from within, and said that industry groups provide many essential avenues, including around setting standards and other issues, that were not acknowledged in the resolution.

Still, ethical investors claimed the result represented a degree of success, with 29.58 percent of proxy votes in favor of the resolution. A further 0.62 percent abstained.

“This is a huge result on a very direct call for suspension, and represents an awakening for the Australian investment community,” said Brynn O’Brien, Executive Director at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility.

“Lobbying counter to the goals of the Paris Agreement has been tolerated for far too long ... Companies should heed this advice and suspend funding to organizations that undertake lobbying counter to the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
 

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