Report From the Front Line of AGM Activism: July 2017

July was no holiday for AGM activists! From Manchester to London and Milton Keynes, AGM activists are unlocking the power of the investment system by asking hard-hitting questions on the things that matter to them, such as climate change, fair pay and sustainable food systems.

This report features some of our most recent wins alongside cracking stories of AGM activists fighting the good fight. If you scroll down, you’ll also find a selection of top blogs written by our AGM activists, our top AGM selfies so far, and a list of must-read articles about AGM activism.

“Coming out of [the AGM] I felt as powerful as the CEO! A similar feeling to when you come out of a job interview that you felt went well or a really good first date. I was glad to do something more than just sharing a video on social media and going the extra mile felt great. I was on such a high and felt like I could take on anything thrown at me.”

FRANCESCO SCANZANI, AGM ACTIVIST, OCADO AGM

You are part of a growing movement

More than 80 AGM activists have now asked more than 120 life-changing questions at 90 AGMs based in the UK, Switzerland, France, The Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Germany and Italy. They chatted with the top bosses of the world’s biggest companies about things that matter – such as climate change, fair pay and sustainable food systems. The good news? They’re winning the argument!

And we are winning

July marked a landmark moment in the global effort to transform our energy system, with 100 companies committing to going 100% renewable electricity and joining the RE100 initiative. This will create a demand of about 146 terawatt hours of renewable electricity annually – about as much as it takes to power Poland. The tireless commitment and beautiful interventions of our AGM activists were key to these victories. But the fight is far from over. In the words of AGM activist Tom Levitt, “now for #RE1000!”

July was a busy month for Living Wage campaigners: Short update on Merlin

Earlier this year, over 7,500 of you signed a letter asking the CEO of Merlin Entertainments – the owner of Madame Tussauds, Legoland, and more – asking the company to stop taking staff for a ride with poverty wages.

Prior to their AGM, Beau O’Sullivan and Daniel Voskoboynik, armed with cardboard speech bubbles and a camera, went on a mission for social justice to Madame Tussauds. They attracted quite a bit of attention, with tourists being more interested in what the waxworks had to say than in the attractions themselves. But the buzz wasn’t contained within the four walls of the museum.

Over 200 of you then took action to say #DontBeADummy to Merlin and ask them to pay all its staff at least a real Living Wage. Jess Clark then attended the Merlin AGM to hand the letter to the CEO of Merlin. She was pleased to learn that he had seen your tweets. We’re still pushing for a meeting so the fight continues…

AGM activism at the front line of policy

You may have heard recently that ShareAction has taken over the AODP and started working on the TCFD. Wait. What? What do these acronyms even mean?

The TCFD recommendations are voluntary guidelines set by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). They’re like the entry point into the big and exciting world of climate information disclosure. A couple of you have been attending the AGMs of financial firms asking them to implement the TCFD recommendations, or should I say #TCFDRecs?

The AODP, or Asset Owner Disclosure Project, ranks some of the world’s largest investors – such as big pension funds and insurers – on the quality of their climate-related financial disclosures, using the TCFD recommendations as a reporting framework. These asset owners manage the savings of billions of citizens across the world. But some of them fail to take into account the risk posed by climate change to our savings… The AODP shines the spotlight on these poorly performing actors and pushes them to be better.

The AODP survey was first managed by an NGO of the same name but ShareAction took over the reins in June – watch this space!

These stories are reasons to celebrate

Our summer party is always a great occasion to bring together and thank the many amazing people helping to build the movement for responsible investment. Our award ceremony highlighted some of this year’s responsible investment heroes for their heroic contributions to turning the investment system into a force for good. Congratulations to AGM activists Doug Paulley, Ruth Westcott, Chris Baines and Penelope Turton for winning the awards for “Best Selfie”, “AGM Activism: Ploughing New Field”, “Communications: Hunger for Fame” and “Climate campaigner”, respectively – you are all amazing!

Check out our favourite #AGMselfies

The investment system is often perceived as something removed, complex, and – let’s be honest – a tiny bit scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Each year we ask our AGM activists to take an #AGMselfie to break that misconception and make AGM activism a more relatable experience.

This month’s best snaps feature a CEO selfie by Emma Alken at the Severn Trent AGM, Manchester-based Kate Eldridge and Ali Abbas at the Morrison AGM, Rebecca Warren and Colette G. St-Onge at the Vodafone AGM, and Craftivists crafting handkerchiefs for senior M&S executives.

Find out more directly from AGM activists

Wondering what attending an AGM entails in practice? Get the full scoop directly from our AGM activists to find out about their experiences at the AGMs of Morrison, Merlin Entertainments, Whitbread, Nostrum Oil & Gas, BT and Burberry.

Time to Celebrate: Burberry Commits to Going 100% Renewable Electricity!

By Bill Linton, AGM activist How do you ask someone to do something when they’ve just declared they’re going to do it? That was the dilemma when I attended the Burberry AGM at the swanky Inter-Continental Hotel (two doors six feet apart on the way in – and a staff member at each of them,

From the BT Bridge Club to the AGM: A Journey

By Bill Linton, AGM activist I have never worked for BT, but I was and still am a member of what used to be the BT bridge club, so it was extra interesting to attend their Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Caffeine for the Soul: The Whitbread AGM

By Rebecca Warren, AGM activist Whitbread is another company where it is not immediately obvious what they do. When I agreed to attend this AGM, I was under the impression that they produced beer and other drinks. In fact they run hotels (Premier Inn), restaurants (Beefeater and Brewers Fayre) and coffee (Costa). I suppose that

beau with waxwork one direction

The Real Magic Behind Merlin: #DontBeADummy pay staff a Living Wage

By Jessica Clark, Campaigns Organiser, ShareAction Merlin owns many of the most exciting tourist attractions in the UK, such as Thorpe Park and Madame Tussauds, but the real magic behind Merlin is its staff – the people on the ground making attractions fun and safe. The problem is that Merlin does not pay all its

Talking Plant Protein & Green Electricity with Morrisons at Their 2017 AGM

By Kate Eldridge, AGM activist We know that the shift from fossil fuels to renewables, and from meat to more plant-based proteins, are key transitions needed in the fight against global warming. My partner Ali and I were therefore excited to be asked by ShareAction to raise these issues at the AGM of supermarket chain

Read about AGM activism in the news

Media coverage is vital to ShareAction’s mission of building the movement of people taking action for positive corporate behaviour and unlocking change in those companies. Getting to know the journalists who cover the topics you care about or the company whose AGM you’re attending is a great way to create visibility for your cause – get in touch with Jeanne or plumb the knowledge of our comms team if you want support with media coverage.

Earlier this month, Sainsbury’s faced protests from campaigners, supported by ShareAction, over its plan to drop Fairtrade tea, the Guardian reports. Outside the AGM, protesters carried placards to express their concerns at Sainsbury’s move to exchange the well-recognised and accepted ‘Fairtrade’ brand for its own less transparent version. It’s mainstream coverage of the issues that matter to AGM activists that drives them up the corporate agenda. The Telegraph followed up with news that 40 MPs have backed a parliamentary motion urging supermarkets to “remain with and strengthen their commitment to Fairtrade certification”.

On the other side of the city, the M&S AGM also faced protests – but this time over its advertising links with the Daily Mail. ShareAction also attended their AGM to encourage them to become a Living Wage employer. M&S is one company which has made admirable progress on fair pay but is missing the final step to official accreditation. Media pressure showing AGM activism is one tactic ShareAction uses to unlock change. The Independent covered news that our investor group was upping pressure on the luxury retail company and Manifest blogged on the topic, including comments from our CEO that M&S accreditation would play a transformational role in the sector.

What’s next?

Feeling inspired to dive deeper into the sustainable finance debate? Join ShareAction’s European Responsible Investment Conference on 14 & 15 September 2017 in The Hague to explore how we in civil society can hold investors accountable on the low-carbon transition and the Sustainable Development Goals. Secure your free ticket here.

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Colette St-OngeReport From the Front Line of AGM Activism: July 2017