Investors in Royal Dutch Shell have welcomed the decision by the company’s board of directors to back a resolution on climate change at its annual general meeting in May.

The special resolution – ‘Strategic resilience for 2035 and beyond’ – amplified by a supporting statement, calls for routine annual reporting from 2016 to include further information about certain activities related to climate change, including ongoing operational emissions management, asset portfolio resilience to the International Energy Agency’s scenarios, and public policy positions relating to climate change.

It has been filed by Aiming for A, a coalition of more than 50 institutional investors with portfolios totalling £160bn (€209bn), and led by CCLA Investment Management, the specialist church and charity fund manager.

Its name is taken from the highest rating (A) of CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), an NGO that rates the performance of global companies on climate change. 

The investors include the UK Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF); church investors, such as the Church Commissioners for England and the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church; and other European pension funds, including Ilmarinen and Swedish buffer funds AP2, AP3 and AP4.

A letter sent to shareholders by Shell said: “The board has given consideration to the resolution and has decided to recommend that shareholders support the resolution at the AGM.”

The letter, from JJ Traynor, executive vice-president of investor relations, said Shell would report on:

  • Ongoing operational emissions management
  • Asset portfolio resilience to post-2035 scenarios
  • Low-carbon energy research and development and investment strategies
  • Strategic key performance indicators and executive incentives
  • Public policy interventions

Shell will provide additional reporting in 2015, in advance of full reporting in response to the resolution in 2016, in the most appropriate annually updated report or website location, which will include its sustainability reporting and its emissions reporting website.

Kieran Quinn, chair of both the LAPFF and Greater Manchester Pension Fund, said: “This development from Shell is a clear example of the effectiveness of shareholder engagement backed by investor commitment. Universal owners taking an active approach to long-term risk, sustainability and carbon-management issues has benefits both for our beneficiaries and for our underlying investments.”

Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners for England, said: “This shows what an important role shareholders can play in promoting business adaptation to the transition to a low-carbon economy. More widely, it demonstrates the benefit of corporate engagement and the constructive outcomes it can achieve.”

Howard Sherman, head of corporate governance and product development at MSCI, said: “This is a remarkable and potentially historic development from a corporate governance perspective. It’s quite rare for a board to recommend in favour of a shareholder proposal, let alone one with such potential impact on the rest of the industry.”  

Sherman added: “When I started working in this field in 1986, it was rare to even see a shareholder proposal concerning environmental issues. The few that made it on to the ballot would receive at best 2-3% of the vote. This development shows just how fast climate change has emerged as a key corporate governance issue for many companies.”  

A similar resolution has also been filed by the coalition for BP’s AGM on 16 April.

Have a look at IPE magazine’s excellent ESG report on carbon risk