Aus Lobby Group Win On Fossil Fuel Disclosure
14 January 2015 at 9:56 am
Corporate democracy Not for Profit, the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility is claiming victory in its campaign to force the big Australian banks to disclose fossil fuel investments.
According to the organisation, ANZ, NAB, CBA and Westpac all improved their disclosure on fossil fuel investment as a result of their recently-held AGMs.
ACCR ran a campaign in the leadup to the AGMs promoting increased disclosure which included a lawsuit against the Commonwealth Bank in the Federal Court.
Among the improvements:
CBA has undertaken to disclose the carbon emissions initially from their lending to the energy sector and then all their lending.
NAB has disclosed how much of its lending to the mining sector is to fossil fuels.
Westpac has disclosed how much of its lending to the mining sector is to fossil fuels as well as the carbon intensity of its Infrastructure and Utilities portfolio.
ANZ has disclosed the emissions intensity of its power generation lending.
“This information means shareholders can start comparing banks’ fossil fuel performance using facts not guesses,” Caroline Le Couteur, Executive Director at ACCR said.
“We expect other banks will be forced to move to more disclosure rapidly from sustained public, regulatory and shareholder pressure. In particular NAB has committed to facilitating collaboration with other Australian banks to disclose more.
“ACCR is pleased that, as a result of shareholder and civil society advocacy, our big banks have decided to do more to tell their shareholders what they are in fact financing. Westpac has been, and continues to be, the leader in this.
“However, there is still more to go. We don’t know how much our banks lend to fossil fuel infrastructure such as ports and rail lines. We don’t know how much their wealth management branches have invested in fossil fuel companies.
The ACCR launched its ongoing legal action against the Commonwealth Bank over a shareholder resolution on climate risk in October, supported by lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia.
ACCR said it put a number of shareholder resolutions to CBA in September asking the bank to report on the climate risk it faces.
“The bank believes Australian law doesn’t require them to do this – but we think they’re wrong. If we win this case, it will set a precedent that will apply to future AGMs of Australian companies,” Director of Litigation at Environmental Justice Australia, Felicity Milner said.
“This is an important test case, with implications for all Australian companies. If we win, it will make it much easier for shareholders to voice concerns about the actions of the companies they own."
“Voters can hold Governments to account, but there are only limited ways that shareholders can hold corporations to account. But if we win this case, it will provide shareholders with an important tool to create a better world.
“Corporate democracy is an important part of responsible corporate governance in most developed countries. Australia is far behind the rest of the world in recognising shareholder rights.”
Caroline Le Couteur said there had been an increase in awareness of climate risk in Australia after the Lima climate conference and the US China announcements.
“Investors have seen the oil price halve in recent months and the coal price plunge,” she said.
“The Bank of England has started an assessment of the risks fossil fuel investment poses to the UK banking system. Shareholders realise there is a real risk that fossil fuel assets will become ‘stranded assets’ because the world has decided to move on,” she said.
“ACCR recognises the progress the banks have made and looks forward to working with shareholders and banks to do much more [this] year.”
Read Pro Bono Australia’s coverage on the lawsuit here.
Read coverage on the launch of the ACCR here.