Helen Wildsmith: Marking the merger of ‘Aiming for A’ into the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change

Both win inaugural RI Awards for Innovation & Leadership

Thank you to all those who nominated ‘Aiming for A’ for RI’s first collaboration award. I am delighted that the coalition we built has been recognised in this way, especially as RI helped with the initial awareness raising.

As ESG Magazine readers know, we’ve been merging ‘Aiming for A’ into the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC): a year-long process that will be completed as this Annual General Meeting (AGM) season draws to a close with Rathbone’s Matt Crossman’s annual public engagement with SSE in Perth next month.

Before looking forward, I would like to thank particular individuals/organisations who helped get us to >98% votes at the BP/Shell AGMs in 2015 and beyond. For me, this highlight and the follow-on resolutions were always the mid-point of a decade long process. In 2010 CCLA was amongst the investors thinking that new stewardship techniques would be needed to help address non-diversifiable climate change risks. The majority of our charity clients had also recently confirmed that although tobacco exclusions were appropriate for them, they overwhelming backed engagement with the ultimate sanction of divestment when it came to climate change.
Looking back these are the key groups who took us from 2010 to last month’s >62% Exxon vote:

Key Catalysts: As highlighted in my article for the public launch of ‘Aiming for A’ in 2012 there were many moments that helped trigger the idea that I had while walking between CDP and CCLA’s old offices. However, the need to ‘amplify the voice of long-term investors’, through incorporating ‘supportive but stretching’ resolutions within a positive stewardship context, would not have occurred to me without those critical 2011 interactions with Peter Montagnon (then with the investment arm of the Association of British Insurers) and Julie Tanner (of CBIS and now on the Interfaith Centre for Corporate Responsibility board).
First Followers: The core ‘Aiming for A’ coalition members at the point of our initiative’s move into IIGCC are listed at the end of this article. However, as the Dancing Guy video highlights ‘first followers’ are often the real leaders. The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum were the first investors to join us in 2011, and Craig Mackenzie (the previous chair of the IIGCC Corporate programme) deserves credit for embracing the alignment of ‘Aiming for A’ and IIGCC member engagement with BP from the outset.
Broader Backers: By February 2015 the boards of Shell and BP had backed the ‘strategic resilience’ resolutions it had taken me two months to carefully finalise. CalPERS also showed visionary leadership on the Ceres investor network’s subsequent monthly Carbon Asset Risk call by offering proxy solicitation support across US shareholders of these companies.
$8tn Co-filer Coalition: A year later large European fund managers had joined us in co-filing at the UK-listed miners. A special mention should go to Jessica Ground at Schroders who started that ball rolling. A move which allowed us to meet CCLA’s CEO’s challenge to have enough co-filers with the companies in their investment portfolios to reach the ‘100 and/or 5%’ UK hurdles.Thanks must also be extended to those who provided the key legal know-how and helped build the enormous volume of paperwork required to co-file: Louise Rouse (then at ShareAction and funded by Client Earth), Matt Crossman (Rathbone clients co-filed in large numbers in both years), and CCLA’s Andrew Adams who worked tirelessly behind the scenes across both co-filing periods.
Straddling the Oil & Gas Super-majors: During the 2015 AGM season the ripple to other countries (and sectors) began. Many people and organisations have played key roles on the European continent, in Australia and in North America for decades, but I’d like to applaud the Ceres investor network for reaching out two years ago to see if we could combine techniques from both sides of the Atlantic.

“The time is right to draw a line under ‘Aiming for A’”

From within the core ‘Aiming for A’ coalition, Tim Goodman (Hermes EOS) and Edward Mason (Church Commissioners) deserve huge credit for stepping forward to co-lead at Chevron and Exxon with Wespath and New York State respectively. It is also important to recognise all those in the $12tn co-filer and pre-declarer base for #ExxonVote #Item12 – they helped pave the way for last month’s majority (62%) vote.

With sub-nationals now playing an even more important role in taking forward the Paris Agreement, the time is right to draw a line under ‘Aiming for A’. The engagement work I led at BP with my CIO was designed as a pilot for taking new stewardship techniques into IIGCC’s Corporate programme. Coupled with current chair Stephanie Maier’s key innovation of sector expectations that are backed by all the regional bodies within the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change (GIC), we are in good shape to continue the important stewardship work with key fossil fuel supply and demand sectors. If you’re in Europe and haven’t joined IIGCC yet, do consider taking that step to enhance your engagement with the sectors CDP has covered in its quarterly research series. Key IIGCC investor members help to ensure that there is good co-ordination with the London based HQs of CDP and PRI, so it makes sense to demonstrate commitment by supporting your regional part of the GIC as well as the global bodies. As the new PRI voting declaration platform and recent associated work on Principle 2 (including the recent GIC/CDP Investor Climate Compass) has shown, we are stronger when we all work together.

Helen Wildsmith is Stewardship Director – Climate Change, CCLA and first chair of IIGCC’s new Shareholder Resolutions Sub Group.

The core ‘Aiming for A’ coalition at the point of merging into IIGCC is: CCLA; the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum; the Church of England National Investing Bodies; the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church; and Rathbone Greenbank Investments from 2011/12; with Sarasin & Partners; Hermes EOS and TPT Retirement Solutions joining us in 2015.