Clearway Capital preps for more ESG campaigns following Total letter

The ESG activist tells RI it has bought minority stakes in two more companies

Clearway Capital, the ESG activist fund that recently made waves at TotalEnergies by publicly demanding its exit from operations in Russia, is planning to take aim at companies in the consumer and telecoms sectors, its co-founder Gianluca Ferrari told RI.

Launched in 2020, Clearway focuses on small and mid-cap companies in Western Europe that are lagging on environmental, social and governance issues. Its decision to acquire shares in oil and gas major TotalEnergies following the invasion of Ukraine does not reflect a broader shift to large companies, Ferrari said.  

Instead, it has started engaging with a mid-cap investee company regarding plastic packaging concerns and supply-chain emissions. Clearway recently also closed a minority investment in the private equity space involving a company in the telecoms sector, Ferrari said. There it aims to have an impact on the firm’s net-zero transition and to expand its infrastructure network to reach more homes. 

Ferrari declined to name the companies or disclose Clearway’s current assets under management. 

A fellow investor in Total, who asked not to be named, told RI it agreed with Clearway’s argument that the company should exit Russia following the war in Ukraine, but said questions remain on how to replace exposure to Russian fossil fuel assets with investment in renewables.  

Speaking recently with Reuters, Ferrari said Clearway was “confident that there is sufficient support to file a resolution”, at Total’s annual general meeting in May.  

Major oil and gas players including BP, Shell and Enel have announced plans to sell out of Russia, but Total has committed only to halt fresh investment and suspend trade in Russian oil. Total holds a fifth of Russian gas producer Novatek, whose London listing has been suspended. 

The Church of England’s £3.7 billion ($4.4 billion; €3.9 billion) pension board and the £9.2 billion Church Commissioners for England have also come out in favour of Total’s full exit from Russia. In a letter to the firm’s chief executive Patrick Pouyanné, the Church of England Pensions Board’s chief responsible investment officer, Adam Matthews, said: “As we watch the daily destruction of a democratic country by Russian aggression and the heroic defence by the Ukrainian people, it is clear that TotalEnergies’ position is incompatible with maintaining a social license to operate.” 

Last month, the Church of England announced it had sold all £20 million investments in Russian companies. 

Total also looks set to face a shareholder resolution on its climate commitments, filed by environmental activist Follow This, which has built a reputation for gathering investor support for climate transition plans at big oil corporations.