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Calling out companies in 2024 – what’s happened so far this AGM season

We’re halfway through AGM season, the time of year where we get to speak directly to those in power and demand they do more. We want to see them play their part in tackling the climate crisis, improving working conditions, protecting nature and doing their best to create healthier societies.

AGM season is very important to us here at ShareAction. It provides an opportunity to complement our engagement with investors to put pressure on companies where change is slow or to challenge their activities that continue to damage our society. Annual General Meetings (AGMs) are run by companies to bring together their shareholders, so we purchase shares in the companies that we want to influence to provide a legal route to their meetings.

What’s happened so far?

The bulk of AGMs normally happen between March and August, although the biggest supermarket and retailer AGMs are due later in the year, which we’ll be at. We've already attended 57 AGMs this year to engage with powerful corporate decision-makers on a variety of critical issues.

Our global AGM reach is also growing year on year. We’ve made an international splash by delivering carefully crafted questions at 33 AGMs outside of the UK - more international AGMs than we’ve ever accessed before. We’ve raised the profiles of our campaigns in 11 countries including Norway, Italy, the US, France, Germany, Finland, and Switzerland. 

From Barclays to Next, Ocado to Nestlé, we have provided evidence-informed analysis that demonstrates where progress can be made. By attending the AGMs, we get to speak to those who can spark change and this often opens the door to one-to-one meetings where we can expand our discussions.

And we couldn’t do this without our incredible supporters, everyday people who, like us, believe these companies must do better and are willing to call them out.

Driving the case for racial equality

George and Guy at the Bakkavor AGM (left) and Rowan and Carla at Schroders' AGM (right), to speak to the respective companies about their ethnicity pay gap reporting.

George Amadi, Movement Builder (Black Majority Churches) at JustMoney Movement attended the Bakkavor AGM to stress the importance of ethnicity pay gap reporting to improve equality in the workplace. Thanks to George’s efforts in keeping up dialogue with the company it seems that progress is in the pipeline, with the company confirming that they are pleased to have a date in sight for full reporting of their ethnicity pay gap. 

We’ve also used AGMs as an opportunity to acknowledge company progress and offer constructive advice to maintain positive momentum. We returned to the Schroders AGM in April to commend the company for reporting its ethnicity pay gap for the first time and set out the next steps for improving the granularity of data published. After attending their first AGM, new supporters Rowan and Carla reflected that AGM activism ‘has been instrumental in prioritising the focus [on ethnicity pay gap reporting] internally’.

Tackling major polluters in the chemical industry

Nitrogen fertilisers make up 5% of greenhouse gas emissions – a bigger impact than global plastic use. In May, our climate team attended the virtual AGM of Yara International to stress how important it is that Europe’s largest nitrogen fertiliser producer takes stronger climate action by setting science-based targets. We utilised our secret weapon, filling a shareholder resolution, to demonstrate this is a concern for investors, and to encourage Yara to show real leadership in the fertiliser sector.

The resolution didn’t succeed, but it was an important tactic to show the direction of travel - that investors and the public want to see large companies set credible emissions targets.

Sharing public demand for healthier food options

Nestlé, the world’s biggest food manufacturer also received significant attention from us this AGM season. Following research showing two-thirds of UK adults want Nestlé to reduce the amount of unhealthy food it produces, we filed a shareholder resolution reiterating the importance of a global shift to healthier diets, backed by a group of investors. This meant that all shareholders in Nestlé could vote for or against the issue at the AGM. With BiteBack, we went to the AGM in Switzerland to share the resolution and speak about the incredible work BiteBack is doing to ensure that child health is rightfully prioritised on the corporate agenda.  

Collaborating with like-minded partners to improve workers’ conditions and tackling the climate crisis

Video diary of our day at the Deliveroo AGM. Ulysses, a Deliveroo rider, shares his experience of low pay working at the company.

BiteBack weren’t the only ally we’ve worked with over the past couple of months to hold companies to account. Just last month, ShareAction joined forces with the trade union Independent Workers Union of Great Britain and supported 10 Deliveroo riders and union members to present powerful, personal testimonies on the prevalence of unsafe working conditions and dangerously low pay to the gig economy giant at the AGM. Whilst the Board’s responses were non-committal and lacked substance, we’re hopeful that this continued AGM engagement over consecutive years will lead to fairer wages for Deliveroo riders in the very near future.  

A video from David Van der Velde of the Living Wage Foundation where he introduces his question at the Greggs' AGM, on paying workers a real Living Wage.

ShareAction recently teamed up with the Newcastle Living Wage Action Group to attend the Greggs AGM. Here David carried out a brilliant intervention on behalf of the bakery’s workers and succeeded in securing a follow-up meeting with the company to discuss the crucial topic of pay and in-work poverty in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. 

On the topic of climate, we also stood in solidarity with CEEDPhilippines campaigners at Standard Chartered’s AGM, where community representatives encouraged the company to oppose oil and gas expansion in the Verde Island Passage and Mozambique. 

Shining a light on our new focus area, air quality

Attending AGMs has also been a crucial tactic in allowing us to begin vital, constructive conversations with our air quality company targets. Every company we’ve asked an AGM question on the topic has agreed to meet with us to discuss the issue of air pollution in more depth. Speaking on his experience at the Rio Tinto AGM, a global mining group, activist Gabriel stressed how taking such action is ‘an important first step to wider engagement and when done in repeated years encourages accountability.’  

Gabriel spoke at the AGM of global mining group Rio Tinto, holding them to account on their air pollution targets.

And a special thank you goes to…

We also wanted to give a special mention to ShareAction supporter, Annabel, for her efforts in asking a question at Santander’s AGM. Determined to make the AGM intervention as effective as possible, Annabel travelled to Santander’s AGM in Madrid and courageously faced the Board in person to press the company to restrict financing for new oil and gas projects.  

Annabel travelled all the way to Madrid to face Santander and question them about their oil and gas financing.

Not only did Annabel do a fantastic job in ensuring this vital topic was addressed in front of the company’s shareholders, but she also stepped in to deliver a statement on behalf of stand. earth when their representative was unable to access the meeting on the day. In so doing, Annabel spoke to the destruction of the lands of the Indigenous people of the Amazon due to Santander’s role in financing companies responsible for deforestation in the area.  We’d like to stress that we’re incredibly grateful for all the efforts that our supporters go to in helping our campaigns and we don’t expect anyone to travel far to get to AGMs!

Our AGM impact wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the wonderful individuals who dedicate their time to asking AGM questions on our behalf. Your contributions are instrumental in ensuring that companies are both held accountable for their actions and inspired to use their influence to make positive change. 

Interested in getting involved?

If you’d like to get involved in our AGM activism, please register your interest here. Or you can donate to help fund our important work, holding those in power to account for their actions.

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