Share Action

Reaching big business through their boardrooms: how and why we access company AGMs

It’s easy to feel powerless in a world facing such huge challenges as climate change, social inequalities, and nature loss. However, through our AGM activism work, we give a voice to everyday people. It presents the unique opportunity to raise questions to the directors of some of the world’s biggest companies - from Shell and Barclays to Deliveroo and Sainsbury’s.

What is an AGM and how does ShareAction get access to them?

Companies hold Annual General Meetings (AGMs) for their shareholders to come together and hear how the previous year has gone, vote on company matters, and raise questions to the CEO and board.

A shareholder is someone who owns one or more ‘shares’ in a company, through either a broker or the company directly. A ‘share’ means that you own and control a specified percentage of the company.

So, being a shareholder normally allows you access to the AGM of a publicly listed company, providing the opportunity to come face-to-face with the big bosses. ShareAction own shares at our target companies so that we can influence change from the very top.

How do we use AGMs to drive change?

Whilst we do attend some AGMs ourselves, we believe that people who are directly affected by the activities of companies should be able to attend and have their voices heard. This could be a young person worried about their future on an overheating planet, someone struggling to cover their bills because they’re not paid a Real Living Wage, or someone whose health has been threatened by local fossil fuel activity such as gas flares or fracking.

Everyone is affected by these big companies in one way or another – so if you are passionate about making change, we would welcome you to get involved too.

We work with our AGM activists to access the AGM on behalf of ShareAction, letting them use our ‘share’ to gain entry, or we help them attend independently to ask questions relating to their own campaigns. They will then go face-to-face with the Boards, using carefully crafted statements designed to encourage positive corporate behaviour change. We have had some huge wins using this strategic campaign tactic.

ShareAction Head of Banking Programme, Jeanne Martin, is shown at a Barclays' AGM asking a question. She is stood up with notes in her hand, speaking into a microphone and surrounded by other attendees sat in chairs.

How do you take it even further?

Sometimes we have to take things a step further by doing something called ‘filing a shareholder resolution’ before the AGM is held. A ‘resolution’ sets out clear, detailed asks for companies, and what investors expect from them - by ‘filing’ a resolution, an investor ensures an issue is put firmly on the agenda for a company. It forces the company to publicly respond to the investors' asks. We often work with multiple investors to ‘co-file’ a resolution.

This is one of the most effective campaign tactics at our disposal. Through coordinating shareholder resolutions we’ve moved some of the biggest companies and banks on huge issues – sometimes, even the threat of a resolution is enough to make them change. To see our top resolutions to watch in 2024 at some of the world’s biggest companies, head here.

What’s the plan for 2024?

We’re heading into AGM season now, and it will continue through the summer. ‘AGM season’ is essentially the time of year when most companies are holding their AGMs, discussing the past 12 months and looking to the year ahead. You’ll be seeing lots of updates from us and our attendance at the 2024 AGMs of companies like British clothes retailer Next, global bank HSBC, chemicals giant Yara, and food manufacturer Nestle.

Whilst we have a growing network of amazing AGM activists in the UK, some of the world’s biggest players are based elsewhere. That's why we’re going more global than ever this year – with over half of the AGMs we plan to attend being outside of the UK, including those in the USA, Germany and even Australia.

How do I get involved?

We would love you to join our network of AGM activists. We’re running an introductory session on Wednesday 3 April at 17:30 GMT that you can register for here. We provide full training, and you can get support from our team here at ShareAction anytime you need it.

If you are based outside of the UK, or know someone who is, visit this page to see which countries we need activists in and register your interest.

Finally, make sure you are following us on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and sign up to receive our emails to keep up with our activities throughout the 2024 AGM season – we’ll be sharing our wins and other ways you can get involved.

A group of five AGM activists join two of ShareAction's banking team members for a group photo, they are smiling and facing the camera

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