Pressure group says worse fears ‘vindicated’ as BHP releases lobbying review

Mining company sticks with trade bodies like US Chamber of Commerce and American Petroleum Institute

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) has dubbed BHP’s decision to remain a member of four trade organisations which are misaligned with the mining giant’s stated position on climate change as evidence of the miner’s “duplicity and weakness”.

The ACCR, an influential shareholder advocacy group, is the filer of two climate lobbying proposals at the Anglo-American giant which has led to two separate internal reviews into the climate and energy policy positions taken by trade associations in which BHP retains a membership.

The latest review, released yesterday, concluded that BHP had “material differences on climate and energy policies” with four trade organisations out of a total of 30. But the company said this was precisely the reason it should remain “active participants” as it was then able to “exert a positive influence on the industry as a whole”.

“The role of each member of an association is to articulate its view in a clear and constructive way, and to seek to influence the association through free and open debate,” it said.

According to BHP, membership also carries broader benefits “in areas including safety, health, workforce, community and economic policy”.

The four industry groups are the NSW Minerals Council, the US Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber), the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and the American Petroleum Institute (API).

"The investors who backed BHP’s board now look foolish and weak, in the midst of a catastrophic climate-related bushfire crisis in Australia" – ACCR’s Dan Gocher.

Dan Gocher, ACCR’s Director of Climate & Environment, said: “This report is a vindication of BHP shareholders’ concerns in the worst way possible. BHP has asked shareholders to hold fire until the end of the year, and then released an impotent review in which the company refuses to bring any of its industry groups to heel.

“The investors who backed BHP’s board now look foolish and weak, in the midst of a catastrophic climate-related bushfire crisis in Australia.”

While a majority of investors backed BHP management on a resolution submitted by ACCR earlier this year, its nearly 30% support from investors was significantly more than the 10% shareholder support for the ACCR’s first resolution.

The company has said that it will reassess its membership of the Chamber, MAC and the API by end-August next year, and that of the NSW Minerals Council by end-April.

The first review into BHP’s lobbying links took place in 2017 and resulted in the miner withdrawing from the World Coal Organisation.