Activists hail ‘breakthrough’ as proxy adviser backs climate resolution at Total

15 May 2023, 14:44

Total oil refinery in Immingham
Lindsey Oil Refinery Strikes. Picture: PA

Dutch shareholder activist Follow This welcomed Institutional Shareholder Services backing its resolution ahead of the oil major’s AGM.

Shareholder activists have welcomed a “breakthrough” after an influential proxy adviser backed a climate resolution for TotalEnergies.

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has recommended that investors vote for the resolution, which urges the French oil giant to do more to cut emissions from its value chain, at the annual general meeting on May 26.

It comes after Dutch shareholder activist Follow This, along with a coalition of 17 investors who together represent about 1.4% of the capital, filed the resolution calling for the oil and gas group to align its 2030 Scope 3 emissions reduction targets with the Paris Climate Agreement.

In a note to shareholders seen by the PA news agency, ISS said the proposed resolution has “some merits” because information is missing to provide comfort that the Scope 3 goals are aligned with the Paris agreement.

It is the first time the proxy adviser has recommended shareholders vote for the climate resolution at a European supermajor in its generic advice – and not just its suitability advice – although it has previously advised for the climate resolution in the US and Norway.

Tarek Bouhouch, of Follow This France, said: “It’s a breakthrough in the fight against the climate crisis that one of the two most influential voting advisers is finally starting to back our fair ask, because these supermajors will only change if shareholders massively vote for change.

“The fact that the climate resolution was filed by Follow This and a coalition of 17 investors, many of whom were ISS customers, may have aided in ISS’s U-turn.

“The rationale reflects the analysis of many investors in TotalEnergies. The company is indeed far from Paris-aligned and needs support from shareholders to align its 2030 Scope 3 targets with Paris and invest accordingly.

“It’s symbolic that ISS starts backing our request for a Paris-aligned strategy at the supermajor that is headquartered in Paris. Positive advice for climate resolutions at Shell and BP will logically follow in the years to come.”

TotalEnergies has recommended shareholders reject the proposed resolution, saying it “does not provide a credible response to the challenges of climate change and would be contrary to the interests of the company, its shareholders and its customers”.

The resolution is unlikely to receive a majority at the AGM although about 20% of the shared votes can be considered a shareholder rebellion.

Follow This filed the same resolution this year at BP, Shell, Exxon and Chevron.

Mr Bouhouch said: “The boards of these supermajors are determined to extract fossil fuels for as long as possible and want to postpone serious emissions reductions until after 2030.

“These climate resolutions at Big Oil will show which investors are serious about resolving the climate crisis and which investors prefer to only talk about it.”

According to Follow This, ISS’s sustainable analysis has led to a recommendation for shareholders to vote for the resolution at Shell’s annual general meeting next week, although its generic analysis recommends a vote against the resolution.

PA has contacted ISS and TotalEnergies for comment.

By Press Association