Listed companies hold annual general meetings (AGMs) for all of their shareholders. These were designed to allow shareholders to cast their votes on company issues, such as electing a new board member, and allow the company’s directors to present the latest information on the company’s performance and strategy. In recent years, AGMs have lost their sense of purpose, with annual reports published online, and shareholders no longer required to be physically present to vote on important resolutions.
However, for some investors AGMs have become firmly established as a platform to bring key sustainable issues to the attention of boards and the public.
This month, a few EQ Investors (EQ) colleagues teamed up with the organisation ShareAction, to attend in-person AGMs of companies listed in the UK. ShareAction are a campaigning charity that works with institutional investors, policy-makers and civil society to press for change on key social and environmental issues at financial institutions and the world’s biggest companies.
I travelled to Yorkshire to attend the AGM of the chemicals company Croda to ask a question on climate action. While all of its competitors have already committed to procure 100% of electricity from renewable sources, Croda did not include this in its climate plans. I challenged the board, and the Chair assured me that this will be looked at within the next few months.
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Damien Lardoux, Head of Impact Investing at EQ attended two recent AGMs in London. The first was at Standard Chartered, the UK-listed bank which provided over half a billion dollars in financing to oil & gas companies in 2022. Damien urged the bank to publish concrete plans to restrict this going forward, to align with global climate commitments.
The other AGM was Domino’s Pizza. At EQ we have been engaging on nutrition since 2019 with a coalition of investors, and this AGM brought another opportunity. Damien asked Domino’s to improve its nutritional reporting practices and work towards healthier sales targets.
Is AGM activism for you?
Our presence at those AGMs showed everyone in the room – that there are people who are closely scrutinising the actions of big corporations and who will keep up the pressure for as long as is needed.
We now look forward to developing these conversations with the companies, alongside ShareAction and other investors. If you’d like to learn more about our process or how to get involved yourselves, please get in touch.