Today at Barclays’ AGM, nearly 24% of shareholders voted for ShareAction’s resolution asking the bank to phase out financing for fossil fuels and utility companies that are not aligned with the Paris climate goals. Passing the 20% threshold means the bank will have to formally respond to its shareholders.
ShareAction calculates that, including abstentions, almost 34% of shareholders who voted on Resolution 30 did not follow the bank’s formal recommendation not to support the shareholder-led resolution.
The board’s own resolution on its net-zero ambition, filed in response to intensive investor engagement triggered by ShareAction’s resolution, received 99.93% support.
Blackrock, one of Barclays’ top 3 shareholders, voted against the shareholder-led resolution. The asset manager could be facing conflicts of interest as it has been selected by Barclays to advise the bank on its climate change strategy.
Responding to the voting results, Catherine Howarth, chief executive of ShareAction, says: “Today’s vote on both the climate resolutions sends an unequivocal signal not just to the board of Barclays but to the entire global banking sector that all banks must start to phase out fossil fuel financing. The climate emergency requires nothing less. There is huge support in society at large and in the investment community for firm action on climate change by the world’s major banks. While we welcome and applaud Barclays for setting a net zero by 2050 ambition, shareholders have today made clear that they expect that statement of ambition to be backed up by clear phase-out targets when it comes to energy and power sector activity that is not aligned with the Paris Agreement.
“Today’s voting results will send shockwaves through the banking industry. While Barclays is Europe’s largest fossil fuel financier, it is far from being the only bank to prop up companies that are driving the climate crisis. We recently published evidence that no European bank is yet doing what’s needed to meet the Paris climate goals.
“It also shows an increasing disconnect between investors’ expectations of banks on climate change and those of Glass Lewis and ISS, the two largest proxy advisors.”
Natasha Landell-Mills, Partner, Head of Stewardship at Sarasin & Partners, says: "Today, shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favour of adding Paris-alignment to Barclay’s Articles of Association. This means directors have an explicit duty to run their business in a way that contributes to bringing down carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. This represents a huge step forward for Barclays, for which the Board should be commended. It also offers a powerful model for others. All banks – indeed all companies – should be looking hard at whether they too should hardwire a Paris commitment into their governing statutes. This is not just the right thing to do for society, it is also vital to protect shareholder capital into the future."
Stephen Power, of the Jesuits in Britain, says: "As a co-filer, Jesuits in Britain welcome the large minority vote for Resolution 30 at Barclays’ AGM to phase out the financing of fossil fuel companies that are not aligned with the Paris climate agreement. The banking sector and fossil fuel producers are risking their reputations unless they become more aware that the tide is turning in favour of much more concerted action to address the climate emergency.’
Resolution 30 was filed by ShareAction and a group of institutional investors and individual shareholders in January and has garnered support from the mainstream investment community, including by the likes of M&G Investments, EOS at Federated Hermes, Jupiter Asset Management, Amundi, and Nest.
In response to ShareAction’s resolution, Barclays’ board filed its own proposal (resolution 29) to become a net-zero business by 2050, which will involve transitioning its portfolio in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement over the next 30 years.
However, ShareAction said last month that this ‘ambition’, while a positive result for investor engagement, leaves unanswered questions about the bank’s harmful financing activities in the short term. Barclays still needs to commit to ‘phase-out’ of support for fossil fuel clients
According to RAN, Barclays has provided more than £100 billion to the fossil fuel industry since the Paris agreement was signed, making it Europe’s largest fossil fuel financier and the world’s seventh largest
Notes to editors:
- For more information, please contact Beau O’Sullivan on +447950 299 491
- The 11 institutional investors who co-filed the resolution are the following: Arcus Foundation, As You Sow, Brunel Pension Partnership, the Central Board of the Methodist Church, Falkirk Council Pension Fund, Folksam, Jesuits in Britain, Lankelly Chase, LGPS Central, Merseyside Pension Fund, and Sarasin & Partners.