By Joanna Weightman, Senior Campaigns Officer, ShareAction
We campaign for a financial system that works for people and planet.
Each spring, investors and companies have the perfect opportunity to take action to nurture nature, and help people prosper.
Because between April and July each year, the biggest companies hold their annual general meetings (AGMs).
AGMs are a vital part of the calendar for companies and investors.
And with your help we can make the most of this opportunity.
A chance to hold companies to account
AGMs are an opportunity for companies and investors to meet and talk about the issues that matter. Investors can ask questions and find out more about their strategy, or challenge them to do better.
Shareholders also vote on important company matters through resolutions.
Responsible investors should be attending AGMs and making the most of this brilliant opportunity to interact with a company.
In the past, the biggest investors haven’t always engaged with AGMs.
So we’re encouraging them to step up.
And as ever, we’ll be leading by example.
We own a share in all of the biggest companies so we can get in the room and ask questions to the board. But we need your help to ask all of the questions we want to ask!
It’s not every day that you get to communicate directly to company CEOs on the issues that matter – so don’t miss out.
Here are the top AGMs that we’ll be paying particular attention to this year:
We worked with over 100 of our supporters and a group of institutional investors to file a shareholder resolution at HSBC this year.
We demanded action – and HSBC listened.
In response to our call, HSBC has put forward its own resolution, which would see it set targets to phase our coal, and to align its lending with the goals of the global agreement on climate change.
This resolution will be voted on at their AGM in May, and we’re expecting to pass.
We also filed the first ever health-related shareholder resolution at Tesco this year.
The resolution asked the largest UK supermarket to ramp up efforts to support healthier diets. This is because supermarkets, through their decisions on what products they sell, how they price them and market them, play a huge role in influencing customers’ shopping habits.
Tesco has responded to the challenge by committing to increase its sales of healthier foods to 65% by 2025.
While ShareAction and its investor group have welcomed this positive move on the part of the retailer, talks with Tesco on a number of outstanding issues are ongoing and the resolution is still set to be put to shareholders at the company’s AGM.
In December, 2,500 ShareAction supporters sent a letter to Royal Mail asking it to pay a Living Wage to its Christmas temps.
Royal Mail pay the Living Wage to their full-time staff, but it is also heavily reliant on temporary contracts to meet high seasonal peaks.
We believe these employees should also receive a Living Wage – and we’ll be at the Royal Mail AGM to keep up this call!
Boohoo hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons last year.
The company was at the center of a Covid-19 outbreak in Leicester, when it was found that workers in its supply chain were forced to work despite testing positive for the virus.
This followed a long line of questions over the company’s buying practices, and the working conditions of its supply chains.
The Levitt QC report in the wake of the scandal found that the failings and poor conditions in Boohoo’s supply chain were ‘substantially true’, that the monitoring programme in factories was inadequate and the failure to assess the risk to workers ‘inexcusable’.
We’ll be at their AGM to make sure they’re held accountable on this, and making sure that it’s clear that these practices are unacceptable.
Last year, we filed a shareholder resolution at Barclays that asked it to bring its energy financing in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
As expected (given the high threshold required) this didn’t pass, but the resulting shareholder, media and customer pressure caused Barclays to commit to becoming a net zero bank in response.
We’ll be at the AGM to press them for more detail on their plan to get to Net-Zero.
Another campaigning group called Market Forces have filed a resolution at Barclays asking them to phase out lending to the fossil fuel sector. We’re excited to see how much support their resolution gets!
We’re asking questions at companies based in mainland Europe too.
In Europe, transport is the largest source of CO2 emissions and is the only sector where emissions have risen since 1990.
To meet international climate targets and the EU’s emissions goals, we need automotive companies to rapidly move away from internal combustion engines to fully electric vehicles.
Read more about why in our report on the topic!
We’ll be asking Daimler – one of the largest car manufacturers in the world – to commit to phasing out the production and sales of cars and vans with an internal combustion engine by 2035 at the very latest.
Alongside these main AGMs to watch we’ll be asking approximately 100 more questions at the AGMs of the biggest companies.
We can’t do that without the support of our AGM activists. They sign up to an AGM and ask our question in front of company boards.
It’s a fantastic and empowering way to speak truth to power – and you can sign up to do so!
New to AGM activism or wanting a refresher? Come along to one of our training sessions in Mid-April to learn more.