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campaigners use 'social' shareholder resolution tactics

April 2000

Pressure groups in Europe are using shareholder resolutions put forward at annual general meetings of large companies in a bid to persuade the companies to develop ‘more sustainable’ investment strategies.

Such ‘social’ shareholder resolutions as a means of influencing corporate strategy are fairly common in the US.

Campaigners on this side of the Atlantic are now importing the tactic, in one case with the support of an American social investment organization.

Greenpeace has marshalled more than 100 American and British shareholders holding in excess of 1,000,000 shares to support a resolution calling on BP Amoco to abandon plans to invest in the ‘Northstar’ project, an oil rig and sea pipeline in the Arctic Ocean. The group believes the money ‘should be redirected to the company’s solar subsidiary to mitigate global warming’.

The resolution, put forward by Trillium Asset Management, an American investment corporation specialising in socially responsible investment, will be voted on at the AGM in London on 13 April by BP Amoco’s 900,000 shareholders.

A BP spokesman said, ‘We have spent a long time talking to local communities about Northstar and we certainly plan to go ahead if this resolution is unsuccessful. We are world leaders in the solar energy market and we are aggressively expanding our efforts.’

Penny Shepherd, executive director of the UK Social Investment Forum, said: ‘This is the first time we have seen US social investors tabling a social shareholder resolution at the AGM of a major UK company’.

Meanwhile Greenpeace Netherlands is attempting to put pressure on another oil company, Royal Dutch, by sending ‘a proposal on switching investment from oil and gas to solar’ to the company’s shareholders.

Tony Juniper, Friends of the Earth’s campaigns and policy director, said, ‘We are looking closely right now at how we can make much more use of shareholder resolutions to influence multinationals’ strategy.’ FoE had been encouraged by responses from institutional shareholders in French oil company Totalfina to letters the pressure group had sent asking them to ‘raise questions’ with the company about its environmental record.




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