Churches Flex Money Muscle

By John Martin

Churches in the United Kingdom are learning they have power to influence commerce and industry to adopt environmentally friendly policies, especially when they team up with other major investor groups that want ethical policies in business.

Church-led investor action has led oil giants BP and Shell to plan on building climate-change measures into their business strategies.

Last week the Aiming for A coalition said it will present resolutions to annual general meetings of three giant mining companies that compel them to disclose their environmental policies to investors. Well-known multinationals Anglo American, Glencore, and Rio Tinto are in the coalition’s sights.

Aiming for A is an alliance of around 100 investors with assets of £230 billion ($US 342.5 billion) under management. Membership includes several massive pension funds and the Churches Investors Group, which encompasses the Church Commissioners of England. Its share investments on behalf of the Church of England amounts to £6.7 million ($US9.97 million). The resolutions are being filed by a much wider group of institutional investors representing more than $4 trillion of assets.

“The BP and Shell resolutions have helped change the way the European oil and gas companies integrate climate change into their business strategies. We are now keen to see the same from the major mining companies,” said Edward Mason, head of responsible investment with the Church Commissioners for England, which is leading the engagement with Glencore. “We would like other investors to join us in co-filing, then supporting these resolutions, thereby encouraging the companies to advocate for and adapt to a low-carbon economy.”

“These resolutions are a vital opportunity for shareholders to signal their support for the development of low-carbon transition plans,” said Helen Wildsmith, stewardship director at charity specialist CCLA and founder of Aiming for A. “We want Anglo American, Glencore, and Rio Tinto fully to demonstrate awareness of the risks and opportunities that climate change poses to their businesses, including showing that their evolving asset portfolios are resilient across future scenarios.”

Wildsmith added: “This has never been more crucial, with unmistakable policy tightening and technological advance underway, and as more and more investors divest from companies with significant exposure to coal mining.”

The resolutions will be filed by Dec. 31. Shareholders will vote on the resolutions at the companies’ annual general meetings next spring.

Image by doctor_bob9, via morgueFile

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