Pension schemes including the Church of England Pensions Board and the South Yorkshire Pension Fund have voted down Rio Tinto’s accounts in protest against the company’s links with lobby groups that obstruct climate change policy.
The Church of England Pensions Board, along with ACCR, Local Government Super of Australia and AP7 of Sweden, filed two resolutions with the miner’s Australian arm in February, urging it to publish what it spends on membership to lobby groups that obstruct climate policy and push governments for coal subsidies to keep coal alive.
However, the mining giant blocked shareholders in the UK from voting on this resolution, a move condemned by non-governmental organisations earlier this week. In response, Share Action, Client Earth, and Influence Map, recommended that shareholders should vote against the approval of the company’s 2017 accounts.
Importantly, the board's response to resolution 20, which seeks greater transparency and active management of climate-related industry association memberships, relies heavily on Rio Tinto's stated support of the 2016 'Aiming for A' climate resolution. However, Share Action claims that the company has fallen short of complying with the requirements of the 2016 resolution.
Church of England Pensions Board head of engagement Adam Matthews said he would “like to record our considerable disappointment” at the decision by the board not to support the resolution, or to allow a vote to have taken place on this issue at today’s AGM. “As a result of your decision not to treat shareholders equally in relation to this resolution, the Church of England Pensions Board have today voted against Rio’s report and accounts. We do not do this lightly and hope that the Board will reflect upon the missed opportunity in its response.”
In addition, Share Action senior campaigns officer Jeanne Martin said: “We are delighted to see investors speaking up on poor corporate governance practices and irresponsible climate behaviour. For too long investors have blindly followed management advice and failed to exercise their stewardship responsibilities on financially important ESG issues at some of the world’s biggest companies. Yet they seem to be finally waking up to the challenge. With AGM season on our doorstep, let's hope that this is just a taster of things to come.”