Our Top Ten Moments from AGM Season

By Michael Kind, Shareholder Activism Coordinator

AGM season has come to an end for this year. We facilitated 142 questions at 86 AGMs, keeping the issues that matter on the table of FTSE100 CEOs. Here are our top 10 moments:

1. The FTSE 100–Living Wage love continues

Since making the Living Wage one of our main AGM campaign priorities back in 2010, the number of FTSE100 employers paying the real living wage has shot up from two to 36.

This year saw two particularly satisfying accreditations. Croda International, a chemicals company, and Intertek, a product tester. While they may not be the biggest names, they still employ thousands of people, so it’s vital they act responsibly in their employment practises. The really exciting thing was them both mentioning our AGM activism as a catalyst for the decisions. Anita Frew, chair of Croda, said “this shows the power of listening to shareholders.” Intertek told us it was a direct result of last year’s AGM question.

2. The BP AGM

For the first time in their history, BP held their AGM outside of London this year, moving it to Manchester. We welcome their move to be more regional diverse, but have a sneaky suspicion that they were trying to hide from activists…Not to be deterred, we trained activists in Manchester and estimate that we made up 10% of the shareholders in the room, including supporting the attendance of an Argentinian activist, whose community in Argentina had been affected by BP’s actions. We pressed them on a wide range of topics, so not quite the activist-free AGM they had in mind…

3. Gender pay tour of asset managers

The gender pay gap is an issue that has been high on the news agenda this year, with asset management companies faring particularly badly. To tackle this, we teamed up with the author of The Paula Principle, Tom Schuller. We trained Tom up and he went along to the AGMs of Schroders, Jupiter Fund Management and Standard Life Aberdeen – who have some of the worst pay gaps in the sector. Tom put the issue well and truly on the table, and asset managers know they need to act. Check out Tom’s article on the topic and his experience in the Independent.

4. Vlogs galore

One of the new things we tried this year was using short videos (vlogs) to boost engagement with AGM season online – and it certainly worked! AGM activists produced 31 vlogs, with some being viewed more than 400 times. It takes bravery to film yourself, so well done to the activists that did so. Check out Doug’s video from Croda, or Lukas’ from Heidelberg Cement to get a flavour. Vlogs place the individuals taking action to transform the investment system centre stage on our social media. It’s inspiring and helps spread the word.

5. Persimmon petition

6,424 savers signed a petition that we took to the Persimmon AGM to demand a real living wage for all staff at the company. Institutional investors NEST and Strathclyde Pension Fund – with £23 billion assets under management also signed up. The company’s refusal to pay the real living wage is particularly problematic given the £75 million bonus paid to Jeff Fairburn. We made sure that the voice of savers wanting a fair economy was heard loud and clear. Persimmon have no excuses for pay inequality left.

6. Follow This resolution

We supported the Follow This resolution at the Shell AGM, which asked them to set and publish targets aligned with the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C. Our role was to get institutional investors to back the resolution. While it didn’t pass, the impact we had was hugely significant – making climate targets the number one issue on the agenda for conversations between the company and its investors.

7. New coal policies

Across AGM season banks announced a swathe of new policies on coal. We were delighted that following sustained pressure from us and other campaign groups, several banks including Lloyd’s and RBS announced that they would no longer fund new coal power projects. Sadly, some banks still have a way to go. HSBC came close to ruling out lending for coal, but have loopholes in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam – countries with lots of coal waiting to be burned. Have a read of Katie’s review of banking AGMs.

Also check out our report on leading practices on green banking in Europe.

8. Collaborations

Lots of other campaigning groups are waking up to the power of AGM activism, and it was a pleasure to support 21 external organisations to harness it this year. Highlights were ClientEarth and the Environmental Investigation Agency challenging FTSE100 companies on plastic pollution and working with Economic Justice Monitor to support an AGM question in Asia for the first time.

Reading this and think you’d like to do the same next year? Just get in touch!

9. Media coverage

We made quite the splash in the media this year. We had coverage across a range of major outlets, including the Times and the Guardian. Most excitingly, we had a Bloomberg journalist attend one of our AGM trainings and write an article about tactics that are being used to challenge oil companies – including AGM activism.

10. High quality blogs

In addition to excellent vlogging, our activists wrote some great blogs this year. We interviewed five of our activists who went to the BP AGM about their AGM, and published a Q&A with AGM activist Kevin about what drives him to take action at AGMs. A highlight was Sam Hayward’s blog on why AGM activism is a great way for campaigns to access decision-makers. It’s all inspiring stuff and a deeper dive into the world of AGM activism. Check out the rest on out blog page.

A massive thanks to the AGM activists, proxy lenders and supporters who make this possible. Want to get involved? Here’s how:

• Be an AGM activist – one of our supporters who goes to AGMs and asks hard-hitting questions to CEOs.
• Own any shares? You can lend them to us for the AGM. This way we can ask more questions to companies.
• Perhaps you’ve got friends who’d be interested in getting involved? Spread the word by sharing our content on social media and bring us up in conversation.
• You can donate to support our work to use the investment system a force for good.
All you have to do is get in touch with us and we’ll run you through it.

Thanks Michael! To find out more about our holding corporate executives to account at AGMs, click here.

Beau O'SullivanOur Top Ten Moments from AGM Season