By Michael Kind, Shareholder Activism Coordinator
BP held their AGM this Monday. We’ve had a quick catch up with five of our AGM activists who attended to find out about their take on it.
What did you make of the action before the AGM?
Carolyn: “The action beforehand was attended by a good range of people representing groups concerned with climate issues and fracking in particular, as well as the actions on BP in Argentina and Columbia. The placards made for good photos, which could then be tweeted. Speeches were succinct and moving and linked struggles in Latin America with those in Manchester. Energy was generated in the collective ‘Presente! Presente! Presente!’ in memory of the dead and murdered as a result of BP activities in Latin America.”
What did you think of the CEO and Chair’s opening remarks?
Jane: “Sounded like a Friends of the Earth event! Talking about aiming for a ‘low carbon future’, ‘advancing the energy transition’, ‘reducing emissions’, and ‘setting clear targets.’”
What was the most surprising thing about the AGM?
Allan: “Apart from climate and related issues there was minimal participation from the shareholders. Virtually everything goes through on the nod.”
Ali: “I expected more people there.” (Attendance was down from 1,200 people in London last year to 200 in Manchester this year)
What was the most disappointing aspect of the AGM?
Ali: “The way CEO Bob Dudley batted questions away, either by saying he “didn’t recognise those figures” when given statistics, and going on to ignore the question. Also the fact that BP seem to consider themselves leaders in the field of low carbon emissions…”
Jane: “That the board seemed a world apart and quite happy with what BP are doing. They reminded me of the characters in Dallas.”
What did you make of the answers to the climate questions?
Allan: “On one level dismissive but at the same time the sheer number of them and the fact that the issue is of a growing priority means the company has to engage. The Chair’s main perspective seemed to be ‘we need the politicians to set tougher frameworks.”
Carolyn: “They made a lot of what was and what was not their responsibilities (demand and consumption definitely not their responsibility!) and what they could and could not control. It seemed to me they were well used to these questions and had their answers well prepared. Where specific demands were made they evaded the question.”
Did you learn anything new about BP?
Ali: “Yes – that they (the directors) seem to really believe that they are working towards a low-carbon future.”
Has your opinion of BP changed at all?
Mark, Allan, Ali and Carolyn: “No.”
What were your top moments?
Allan: “Questions by comrades from Columbia and Argentina who had flown over to confront the board on their first-hand experience of the human rights fallout of fracking in their respective countries.”
Favourite quotes from the AGM?
Mark: “We always work within the law” and “we follow our own code of conduct.” (So it’s OK to work under regimes where the rule of law is decidedly problematic)
Jane: “No damage to the environment is what we live by.”
Ali: “Bob Dudley CEO, saying that BP is becoming more confident that investment in renewables might bring profit to shareholders, but initially they were unclear about this.”
Has this experience motivated you to take further action? What is it?
Mark: “To continue with our fossil fuel divestment campaign. We learned that despite the emphasis on engagement with companies, our pension fund, Greater Manchester Pension Fund was not present at the meeting. We also didn’t see any evidence of their proxies – and the meeting was on their home turf. This gives the lie to engagement as a productive strategy with the fossil fuel majors. However, with companies where engagement is a more appropriate strategy, I’m likely to take up further opportunities to use it.”