Conor Quinn, ShareAction
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Today, for the first time, shareholders of Barclays were able to vote on the bank’s climate strategy through a “Say on Climate” vote at its AGM. In March, when the strategy was published, ShareAction raised concerns that it lacked the ambition needed to address the climate crisis.
Barclays has now revealed that one in five shareholders has voted against management on the climate strategy, with 19.19% voting against it and ~1% abstaining from voting. This is despite the two major proxy advisers – Glass Lewis and ISS – recommending that investors vote ‘FOR’ the plan.
Kelly Shields, Senior Project Officer at ShareAction, responds:
“Today’s voting result shows that a significant fraction of Barclays’ shareholder base continues to be unconvinced by the bank’s climate strategy. They have reason to. Despite being Europe’s largest financier of fossil fuels, Barclays continues to have one of the weakest oil and gas policies in the European banking sector – one it failed to update ahead of its AGM. We call on the bank to formally respond to the vote by updating key elements of its climate strategy by the end of the year.”
In the UK, a 20% vote against management is used to identify controversial votes. The UK Corporate Governance Code specifies that when 20% or more of votes have been cast against the board recommendation for a resolution, the company “should explain, when announcing voting results, what actions it intends to take to consult shareholders in order to understand the reasons behind the result” and disclose “what impact the feedback has had on the decisions the board has taken and any actions or resolutions now proposed.”
Today’s voting result is less than a percent below this 20% threshold. ShareAction therefore encourages Barclays to play fair and formally respond to shareholder concerns within six months of its AGM. This should include committing to:
- Bring forward its coal phase out deadline for all OECD countries to 2030 at the latest;
- Update its oil and gas policy;
- Publish an ambitious green finance strategy; and
- Use the IEA Net-Zero Emissions scenario as the minimum baseline for all of its 2030 targets.
The 2022 Barclays AGM was an eventful one. The AGM was frequently disrupted by ‘Money Rebellion’ activists, and the board faced a barrage of climate change questions by groups such as ShareAction and Market Forces. A long-time High Net Worth Client of the bank also travelled to Manchester to urge the board to act on fossil fuel expansion, and a statement was read from a frontline community in Texas that has been resisting fracking projects, which they claimed were indirectly financed by Barclays.