Wildsmith takes strategic advisory role at CDP to boost investor climate engagement

She will divide her time between CDP and fund manager CCLA

Helen Wildsmith, the Head of Ethical & Responsible Investment at CCLA, is taking a role at investor-backed environmental data body the CDP to act as a point person on investor-corporate engagement on climate change.

She joins CDP as strategic advisor to the investor initiatives team headed up by James Hulse.

She will stay with CCLA, the UK-based charity fund manager, with the title of Stewardship Director, Climate Change – dividing her time between the two organisations.

James Corah, currently Deputy Head of Ethical and Responsible Investment at CCLA and also Secretary to the Church Investors Group, takes over Wildsmith’s role.

At CDP it’s hoped Wildsmith will build on the ‘Aiming for A’ initiative which saw virtually unanimous investor support for shareholder resolutions on long-term climate resilience at BP, Shell and Statoil earlier this year.

In a further development, there are two new members to the ‘Aiming for A’ investor group: Hermes Investment Management and the Pensions Trust.

‘Aiming for A’ refers to the CDP’s upper band of corporate disclosure, so the move is a fitting one for Wildsmith, the former Executive Director of UKSIF, the UK social investment forum.Wildsmith told RI that the focus of the Aiming for A project would now shift to leading listed mining companies, names such as Rio Tinto, Glencore, BHP Billiton and Anglo American. Asked if she expects the boards at the mining giants to support any potential resolutions – a key factor in the success at BP and Shell – Wildsmith said: “That’s what we’re hoping for.”

As for BP and Shell themselves, the investors will scutinise the disclosures called for by the resolutions closely.

There won’t be further resolutions on this topic in 2016, as they would have to be filed before the companies have had a chance to make their disclosures in their annual reports and CDP responses.

But the investors will reserve the right, Wildsmith said, to use the disclosures to influence their voting decisions at 2016 AGMs if they feel progress isn’t up to scratch.

Also on the agenda will be potential resolutions at the likes of ExxonMobil and Chevron for 2016, with help from the Investor Network on Climate Change (INCR), the US investor network of 100 institutional investors representing more than $10trn in assets.

The hoped-for level of support, given that board support is a lot less likely from the US giants, would be around the 50% mark achieved with some of this year’s ‘proxy access’ proposals at AGMs, Wildsmith said.