ESG resolution round-up: Woodside sees largest ‘Say on Climate’ revolt

Support for pioneering tax proposal at Amazon builds, as majority back call for move to recycled plastics at Phillips 66.

Woodside has suffered the largest shareholder rebellion against a ‘Say on Climate’ vote, with just shy of half of investors (49.0 percent) rejecting the Australian oil and gas giant’s climate plan yesterday. 

That tally surpasses the previous record set on 3 May at its rival Santos, where 37 percent of shareholders rejected the oil major’s strategy. Earlier this month, RI reported on signs that investors are becoming less supportive of corporate transition plans.  

While Woodside was given a bloody nose on its climate plan, the oil major saw near unanimous support for its proposed merger with the petroleum arm of miner BHP.  

In addition, despite the low shareholder support for the climate plan, all four directors up for election – including chair of the sustainability committee Ann Pickard – obtained at least 95 percent support. “This sends conflicting messages to the Woodside board regarding how seriously shareholders are taking climate change,” said Harriet Kater, climate lead at nonprofit Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR).  

The ACCR’s proposals on climate lobbying and aligning capital allocation in line with a 2050 net-zero scenario were supported by just 12 percent of Woodside shareholders.  

Support for tax transparency proposal at Amazon builds ahead of AGM next week 

The pioneering tax transparency proposal being put to online giant Amazon next Wednesday looks set to attract significant support, after gaining the backing of influential proxy adviser Glass Lewis.    

Filed by the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and US faith investor Oblate International Pastoral (OIP) Investment Trust, with the support of UK proxy adviser PIRC, the proposal asks the company to issue a tax transparency report based on the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Tax Standard.      

In March, a $3.5 trillion coalition of investors – including Storebrand Asset Management, Robeco, Royal London Asset Management and Nordea – wrote to SEC chair Gary Gensler urging the regulator to require Amazon to allow the resolution to go to the vote. The company’s attempts to exclude it via the ‘no action’ process failed. It is only the second time that a shareholder proposal on tax has survived an SEC challenge.     

Now US proxy firm Glass Lewis has backed the proposal in its recommendations, noting that “issues of tax avoidance can be extremely controversial and have received increasing attention from governments and regulators”.  

“Although the company has provided some level of disclosure on this matter, we believe additional reporting in line with the GRI tax standard would provide shareholders with understandable information on which they are able to base assessments of the company’s tax-related risks,” Glass Lewis wrote.   

Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), manager of Norway’s trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund, has also disclosed that it is supporting the proposal.   

Pioneering plastic proposal at Phillips 66 gets majority support, according to filer 

A first-of-its kind proposal on plastic garnered majority support (50.4 percent) from Phillips 66 shareholders at the US oil giant’s annual meeting on 11 May. 

The resolution, filed by US non-profit As You Sow, asked the company to disclose how it could shift its plastic production business away from virgin plastics to recycled ones. Phillips 66 is the joint owner of Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, one of the largest global producers of plastics used for single-use applications. 

In an SEC filing, however, Phillips 66 stated that the proposal was not approved. When abstentions are included the tally dips to 49.8 percent – but more investors supported it than opposed it.  

Scientists have warned that the world may be approaching an irreversible tipping point for plastic pollution. In March, it was also reported that scientists had discovered microplastics in human blood for the first time.  

A Paris-aligned emissions reduction targets proposal at Phillips 66 was supported by around 35 percent of shareholders. Last year, a proposal calling for full value chain emission reduction goals was supported by a hefty 80 percent of shareholders. Both proposals were filed by Dutch activist Follow This.

RI reported last week on signs that investors are reluctant to support some of the more progressive climate proposal being allowed to go to the vote this year by the SEC under President Biden’s administration.  

Deforestation proposal at Home Depot gets majority support 

On Thursday, a deforestation proposal at Home Depot secured majority support in the region of 65 percent, according to filer Green Century. It is believed to be only the second time a deforestation-focused proposal, opposed by management, has been approved by shareholders. 

The proposal called on the US retailer to increase its efforts to eliminate deforestation and the degradation of primary forests in its supply chains.   

 “It’s a good day for the world’s forests, from Canada’s boreal to the tropical rainforests of South America, and for the species that depend on them,” said Green Century president Leslie Samuelrich.