Advocacy group ACCR succeeds in getting international institutional investors to co-file at BHP

Institutional investors representing €86bn ($94bn) in assets – including the Church of England Pension Board, ACTIAM and MP Pension – have co-filed a resolution at BHP calling on the Anglo-Australian mining giant to ditch trade bodies that are undermining the Paris climate agreement.

It is the second climate lobbying proposal the company has faced in as many years, though this year’s is markedly stronger than the one filed in 2017, which had called on BHP to compare its trade associations’ position on climate change with its own in a review.

Both proposals were filed by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), the influential not-for-profit shareholder advocacy group and prolific filer of ESG proposals.

BHP has come under continued pressure over its membership of controversial trade groups like the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), which have repeatedly called for coal-friendly policies.

This is despite the mining group having found that the MCA has “material differences” in its position on climate change with its own in the 2017 review, which only saw BHP quit the World Coal Association.

In August, lobby group Coal 21, which is closely associated with the MCA, was revealed by ABC News to be behind a pro-coal advertisement campaign.

“While [CEO] Andrew Mackenzie was giving his vaunted speech on BHP’s new approach to climate, BHP’s paid lobbyists were shopping for a A$5m (€3m) coal advertising campaign, a blatant transgression of BHP’s stated expectations,” said ACCR’s Executive Director Brynn O’Brien.In July, BHP’s Mackenzie, speaking at an event in London, warned of the “existential” threat climate changed posed and announced BHP’s a $400m commitment to reduce its Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

Last month, Adam Matthews, Director of Ethics and Engagement for the Church of England Pensions Board, also expressed concern over the reports of a relationship between the MCA and Coal21 in relation to the Church’s investment in BHP.

“If true, it is equally concerning that shareholders’ funds may be being used for what looks like a straightforward exercise in promoting coal above other energy sources at a time we need to be doing the complete opposite,” he told RI.

Matthews added that the fund was waiting for an update from BHP about their industry association review and their assessment of their membership of bodies such as the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA).”

The participation of large international institutions in this year’s resolution is a sign of investors’ growing frustration at such backdoor anti-climate lobbying by companies. BHP is on the list of companies targeted by Climate Action 100+, the investor engagement initiative, which includes a focus on climate lobbying as part of its remit.

“Two years ago, ACCR filed a proposal alone, calling for a review of advocacy. This year, we are filing with an international coalition of funds,” O’Brien said.

The resolution is expected to be heard at BHP’s London annual meeting on October 17 and its Sydney meeting on November 7.