As the proxy season continues, we aim to hold companies accountable for their performance on key sustainability and governance issues. We provide an update on some of our recent votes and engagements during 2023.
Targeting lack of targets
As discussed in a previous blog, this year has seen the introduction of strengthened voting expectations – for example, companies with no emissions targets are likely to receive a vote against. With c. 90% of the world’s greenhouse emissions now covered by net zero targets (and c. 25% covered by carbon pricing), we believe the lack of targets may signal the oversight of a source of material risk and will likely oppose the board director responsible for the sustainability committee (or, in some cases, the chair or other directors) – this includes votes at DH Horton (the US’ largest homebuilder) and major infrastructure company Kinder Morgan.
Conversely, where targets exist, we believe linking them to executive pay provides investors with a signal of the potential importance of such targets; we have cast an increasing number of votes against pay packages that we believe are misaligned with long-term value creation and the management of material risks.
Similarly, for investors to be able to appraise the progress made by companies (and the strength of their targets), adequate and transparent disclosures are essential. Alongside dozens of other investors, we have continued to support a campaign calling on companies to report their emissions via CDP, a platform that drives much of the climate data infrastructure in the market. Building on this campaign, we have begun in 2023 to vote against companies that fall short of our disclosure expectations¹.
Financing in the spotlight
Transparency remains in the spotlight during the proxy season, as a majority of investors (including Fulcrum) supported shareholder proposals calling on major bank Wells Fargo to report on the congruency between official company positions and the lobbying conducted (e.g. via third-party associations). We added our votes to the circa 30% of shareholders asking Bank of America and Wells to issue a report on their climate transition plan, providing investors with more details on their strategy to meet their sustainability financing targets.
On this topic, we were very pleased to see financial giant BNP Paribas respond to our joint investor letter (co-ordinated by NGO ShareAction) by pledging to halt new financing for oil and gas projects – our main engagement request; with a follow up meeting to discuss the bank’s revised approach.
High-carbon companies remain a priority for our engagements, in particular those extractive companies that we believed are positioned to make a meaningful impact on the transition. We pre-announced our support for a shareholder proposal calling for clarity on the climate alignment of mining powerhouse Glencore’s coal assets, noting our belief in the upside share price potential from a cleaner portfolio. We look forward to discussing this with the company in an upcoming meeting.
As co-leads in the Climate Action 100+ investor coalition, we have continued our engagements with BP, including multiple meetings with the company and board members. Whilst we have expressed publicly some reservations around the governance of the company’s revised emissions targets, we believe the company’s plans remain broadly compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement². We have therefore opposed a shareholder proposal on this issue. Given that the company has pledged to reduce its own oil and gas production, we do not believe investors unilaterally forcing further targets on the amount of third-party products sold in BP’s petrol stations, for example, is appropriate at this stage. That said, we will continue to engage with the company around the speed and scale of its low-carbon investments, and the lifecycle and payback profile of its oil and gas production.
As the above examples illustrate, scrutiny of both asset managers’ and companies’ sustainability performance is increasing; so is the need for transparency and nuance, as not everything that is sustainability-related is also supportive of shareholder (or even stakeholder value). We invite our clients and interested parties to review our voting records – alongside rationales for contentious votes – which are publicly available here: https://viewpoint.glasslewis.com/WD/?siteId=Fulcrum.
 Specifically, lack of CDP or SASB disclosure.
 By 2030, median oil and gas demand is only 10% lower relative to 2019 across 1.5C scenarios with ‘no overshoot’. (Source: Table TS.2 in the IPCC AR6 WG III report) This is broadly compatible with BP’s 2030 production aims.
Fulcrum Asset Management LLP. This document represents a marketing communication (non-independent research). It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research, and it is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research.
Fulcrum Asset Management LLP (‘Fulcrum’) defines marketing communication as market commentary consisting of illustrative, critically educational explanatory notes written to discuss or equally support an article or other presentation previously published. This document is also considered to be a minor non-monetary (‘MNMB’) benefit under Directive 2014/65/EU on Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (‘MiFID II’). Fulcrum defines MNMBs as documentation relating to a financial instrument or an investment service which is generic in nature and may be simultaneously made available to any investment firm wishing to receive it or to the general public. The following information may have been disseminated in conferences, seminars and other training events on the benefits and features of a specific financial instrument or an investment service provided by Fulcrum.
Any views and opinions expressed are for informational and/or similarly educational purposes only and are a reflection of the author’s best judgment, based upon information available at the time obtained from sources believed to be reliable and providing information in good faith, but no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. The information contained herein is only as current as of the date indicated, and may be superseded by subsequent market events or for other reasons. Charts and graphs provided herein are for illustrative purposes only. The information in this document has been developed internally and/or obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, Fulcrum does not guarantee the accuracy, adequacy or completeness of such information.
Redistribution or reproduction of this material in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without prior written permission of Fulcrum Asset Management LLP, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No: 230683) © 2023 Fulcrum Asset Management LLP. All rights reserved.