Royal Dutch Shell has announced plans to set short-term targets to reduce the net carbon footprint of its energy products and link them to executive remuneration, after years of investor pressure.

The plans were developed with institutional investors on behalf of Climate Action 100+, the global investor initiative with members running more than $32trn (€28.2trn) in assets under management.

Investor engagement was led by asset manager Robeco and the Church of England Pensions Board, and included representatives of Eumedion – the Dutch platform for institutional investors – and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. Other active participants were Dutch pension manager APG, the Environment Agency Pension Fund and the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Shell had previously stated a long-term ambition to reduce its net carbon by about 20% by 2035, and around half by 2050.

In a groundbreaking joint statement with investors, the company said it would start setting specific targets for shorter-term periods – three or five years – to be set each year. This process would run from 2020 to 2050, the statement said.

The proposals are subject to shareholder approval.

Shell will also incorporate a link between energy transition and long-term executive remuneration as part of its revised remuneration policy, engaging with shareholders and other relevant stakeholders. This will be subject to a shareholder vote at the 2020 annual general meeting.

Other commitments include:

  • Publication of an annual update on Shell’s progress towards lowering its carbon footprint;
  • Third-party assessments of its net carbon footprint to be published on its website;
  • A five-yearly review of updated “nationally determined contributions” and other developments, to calibrate its own pace of change in line with society;
  • A review of Shell’s memberships of trade associations to assess alignment with its stated positions, to be published in the first quarter of 2019.

Adam Matthews, director of ethics and engagement for the Church of England Pensions Board and co-lead of the investors’ dialogue with Shell, said: “This joint statement is the first of its kind, sets a benchmark for the rest of the oil and gas sector, and shows the benefit of engagement – aligning institutional investors’ long-term interests with Shell’s desire to be at the forefront of the energy transition.”

He added that investors would be able to track Shell’s performance through the Transition Pathway Initiative, an independent academic tool hosted by the London School of Economics, which assesses companies’ preparedness for transition to low-carbon economy.

Last year , Church Commissioners for England succeeded in lobbying ExxonMobil to provide information to shareholders on “energy demand sensitivities, implications of 2ºC scenarios, and positioning for a lower-carbon future”.

The resolution – which called on the company to report on how its portfolio of reserves and resources would be affected by efforts to limit the average rise in global temperatures – was passed by shareholders in defiance of the ExxonMobil board’s recommendation to vote against. A similar resolution was defeated in 2016.