BHP Billiton quizzed on carbon at AGM but big funds reject enviro board candidate

“Aiming for A” project kicked off by CCLA.

UK fund management firm CCLA Investment Management quizzed mining firm BHP Billiton at its annual general meeting yesterday in the first outing of the “Aiming for A” plan to tackle companies on their carbon performance.

But some leading institutional investors voted against extractives industry veteran-turned environmentalist Ian Dunlop’s bid to join the company’s board.

The “Aiming for A” coalition of which CCLA is part of plans to ramp up its attendance at AGMs next year and BHP – with a rare autumn AGM – was effectively the pilot for the initiative.

The investor group plans to ask 10 major UK-listed utilities and extractives companies to aim for inclusion in the Carbon Performance Leadership Index of environmental data group the CDP [the former Carbon Disclosure Project].

CCLA’s Head of Ethical & Responsible Investment, Helen Wildsmith, addressed the meeting. She said: “We were disappointed that only one of the 10 FTSE100 companies we are engaging with slipped back in terms of performance band – BHP Billiton from a B to a C”.

She asked whether BHP would continue to “engage and work with us and CDP” to at least meet the current FTSE100 average next year.

BHP Chairman Jac Nasser said the firm was disappointed with the recently released 2013 banding and that he hoped to get back to 2012 levels next year.Although the company has not released the voting results of the AGM, it’s emerged that some of the world’s leading investors rejected Dunlop.

Nasser had written to shareholders saying the former Shell executive would not add to the board’s effectiveness. BHP, Nasser said, has publicly advocated action on climate change policy such as carbon pricing as well as cutting its own emissions and reported against clear performance targets.

According to voting disclosures, investors ranging from Norges Bank Investment Management, PGGM of the Netherlands, California’s CalSTRS and the Florida State Board of Administration voted against Dunlop, who headed the Australian Coal Association in the late 1980’s.

Dunlop, who also chaired the panel which designed Australia’s first proposed emissions trading scheme in the late 1990s, told the Sydney Morning Herald that his candidacy wasn’t supported by proxy advisers, although he was prompting a lot of conversation among investors.

PGGM said: “Although climate change presents challenges for BHP Billiton, there is no compelling case that actions or inactions by the company require the appointment of a shareholder-nominated director against the wishes of the board.”

Dual-listed BHP holds its Australian AGM in Perth, Australia on November 21, where Dunlop will also seek election.