Glencore, the world’s largest coal trading company, has publicly declared its support for the Paris Climate Agreement; yet it continues to contribute to global temperature rises by expanding its operations and lobbying against effective regulation of the coal mining industry.
Glencore benefitted from huge increases in profits in 2022, reporting record earnings alongside companies such as Shell and BP.
Glencore’s emissions reduction plans are flawed
Research by the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) has found that Glencore’s plans to reduce emissions by 50% by 2035 are dependent on carbon accounting tricks which significantly embellish the company’s actual efforts. Their emissions reduction strategy is also heavily reliant on carbon capture projects which are very costly, unproven at the required scale, and don’t necessarily lead to a net reduction in emissions.
If Glencore’s planned mine expansion goes ahead, its emissions targets will be blown even further out the water.
Co-filing a shareholder resolution – an effective way to demand change
We mobilised our supporters to co-file a shareholder resolution – led by ACCR - challenging Glencore on its thermal coal production plans. Shareholder resolutions are one of the most effective campaign tactics for influencing companies. They involve a group of shareholders collectively submitting a request to a company to take a specific action,which is then voted on at that company’s AGM.
We needed 50 shareholders to support this resolution calling on Glencore to explain how its activities align with the goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C, and 69 individuals based in the UK responded to our call.
The co-filers are motivated to stop fossil fuel production
The co-filers of the resolution are individuals of various ages and professional backgrounds. The overriding concern driving them is the need to cease fossil fuel production rapidly and prevent further climate breakdown.
Coal is the single largest contributor to global warming because of the amount of carbon dioxide it releases when burnt. Isky Gordon, a retired doctor, comments “the use of coal will prevent the world from reaching the target of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C.” Bill Spence, a physics professor, highlights the long-term cost of coal power, it “threatens the wellbeing of the next generation, who will have to deal with the consequences.”
As well as accelerating climate change, coal mining causes damage to humans and local environments. Kaye Stearman, a co-filer who spent most of her professional life campaigning on human rights, explains: “I am concerned about the environmental destruction wrought by mining giants such as Glencore and their effects upon communities, including indigenous people.” Mining companies have a long history of violating the rights of Indigenous peoples, taking and polluting land which is vital for subsistence and of spiritual significance. The dust produced by coal mining can also cause significant breathing problems.
Climate change and environmental damage impact them directly
Rachel Mander, who works for an environmental charity, highlights the impacts of climate change on the younger generation: “I'm 25, and the transition away from fossil fuels needs to occur within my working life… it's a threat to the future of everyone in my generation.”
Others commented on the impacts on their close family. Elisabeth Davidson, a GP, explains: “My brother lives in Australia and his small property is threatened by gas and oil mining companies.” For Mark Smith, a retired media executive, co-filing a resolution is “an effective way to help ensure my children and grandchildren will live in a world that isn't beset by catastrophe.”
They believe in the power of shareholder influence
“Shareholder resolutions bring issues directly to the attention of key decision-makers,” explains James McAuliffe, an accountant who leads his village’s climate emergency group. Christine MacLeod, a retired Professor of History, also believes the shareholder resolution is a vital influencing tool for “getting to the heart of their operations,” and “potentially one of the most immediate ways that ordinary people can make a difference.”
Claire Brinn, a lawyer, brings her professional perspective: “I believe in the power of the law to prevent harm and lead to positive change. The most powerful legal mechanism available to me to influence companies is shareholder resolutions.”
It’s about the role of Business in addressing global climate challenges
The co-filers are clear that this is about more than just Glencore. “I believe that business has a huge role to play in addressing the global challenge we're facing,” explains Eliza Preston, a psychotherapist.
Guy Johnson, a retired GP, believes that: “Glencore, like any large company involved in energy supplies, has an over-arching public duty to show how it is taking seriously the existential threat to humanity of the climate crisis.”
Richard Murphy, an Actuary, highlights the potential wider impact of this action: “The resolution has the opportunity to make real material change globally. It also encourages others to push companies hard to make strong carbon commitments and deliver on those commitments.”
Finally, it is in shareholders’ interests for businesses to be serious about their climate commitments. Jonathan Seagrave, a long-term small investor, writes: “I think it is essential that all large corporations should be seriously Paris aligned. If not, they take unacceptable risks with shareholder capital, as regulation will get tighter and tighter. The resolution is a forceful public reminder to management.”
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