minority shareholders withdraw their “climate” resolution

Barely tabled the “climate” resolution that a group of minority shareholders planned to present at the general meeting of TotalEnergies was withdrawn last Friday, due to new commitments made by the group in terms of transparency on the reduction of its gas emissions. Greenhouse effect. This group was made up of twelve investors, including La Banque Postale Asset Management, La Financière de l’Echiquier, Mandarine Gestion, Meeschaert Amilton AM, OFI AM and Sycomore AM. In particular, it asked TotalEnergies to provide more detailed information on the implementation of its strategy to combat climate change.

Group CEO makes commitments

In a letter to the Climate Action 100+ investor group, which brings together investors collectively managing $68 trillion in assets, Patrick Pouyanné, the CEO of TotalEnergies, pledged in particular to publish the absolute and relative emission reduction targets. emissions in the short (2025) and medium term (2030), covering all the company’s activities.

This concerns all scopes of activity, including indirect so-called “scope 3” emissions, which concern the use of products sold by the group by its customers, such as gasoline burned in car engines. According to the document, posted on the group’s internal website on Friday, TotalEnergies will also submit a report on its climate strategy and its implementation to the advisory vote of its shareholders every year, as it will do at its next general meeting. of May 25.

The group has also undertaken to specify the evolution of its energy mix and its production volumes targeted for 2025 and 2030, as well as its short and medium-term investment plans, or even to communicate on the work assessing the relevance of its objectives with regard to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

“Having learned of these new commitments, the group of investors welcomes the progress made, the result of a continuous and in-depth dialogue between the company and various coalitions of investors, which will have to continue”, indicate the 12 French shareholders in a press release announcing that their draft resolution is now “obsolete”.

Reacting to these announcements, TotalEnergies highlighted its “willingness to promote shareholder dialogue and transparency”.

The group, which is developing at a sustained pace in renewable energies and electricity, had already announced on March 24 new targets for reducing emissions from petroleum products sold to its customers by 2030.

Growing pressure

Like its competitors, TotalEnergies is under increasing pressure from certain investors in the fight against climate change. Last year, its general assembly nevertheless largely validated its strategy of transition to carbon neutrality.

“Having learned of these new commitments, the group of investors welcomes the progress made, the result of a continuous and in-depth dialogue between the company and various coalitions of investors, which will have to continue”, indicate the investors.

“TotalEnergies is determined to promote shareholder dialogue and transparency,” commented the company.

“TotalEnergies’ announcements do not contain all the points that appeared in the resolution made by the investors”, objects the NGO Reclaim Finance, questioned by AFP, arguing that “TotalEnergies refers in particular to the Paris Agreement (which aims for warming “well below 2°C”)” and that its climate plan “remains very insufficient and incompatible” with a trajectory aimed at limiting warming to 1.5°C.

The annual general meetings of hydrocarbon groups are increasingly dominated by the climate issue. Last year, TotalEnergies shareholders largely approved of management’s climate strategy, despite a minority rebellion.

Another group of investors, led by Dutch asset manager MN, has tabled a draft resolution for the next TotalEnergies AGM. They did not immediately communicate on Friday following the company’s announcements.

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Increasingly active shareholder activists

McDonald’s, Unilever or Orpea: more and more companies have been the target of campaigns led by minority shareholders during the first quarter, according to a report by the Lazard bank. During the first three months of the year, 73 campaigns were initiated worldwide, the most active quarter ever recorded by the bank. Over one year, shareholder activism campaigns – a practice in which a minority shareholder tries to influence the governance or strategy of the company – have increased by nearly 40%.

Improving working conditions, taking positions in a takeover operation: the campaigns are varied, with increasing consideration for environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

Very active with four campaigns launched, multi-billionaire businessman Carl Icahn notably distinguished himself in February by lobbying for the McDonald’s chain to buy from more respectful pig farming companies.

In France, the investment fund Mirova asked for a change of governance at the head of Orpea after the revelations published in a book about the practices in force in the group’s retirement homes.

In total worldwide, activists secured the appointment of 38 people to corporate boards, according to the report.

However, shareholder activism declined towards the end of the quarter, particularly in Europe, with the start of the war in Ukraine. “The agitation may have turned to behind-the-scenes lobbying rather than public campaigning,” Lazard said. Exception, TotalEnergies was publicly attacked by the investor Clearway Capital to ask it to cease its activities in Russia or to consult its shareholders on its continuation in the country. The company finally announced at the beginning of March that “it will no longer provide capital for new projects in Russia”.