On Thursday 30 May, in a first for South Africa, Standard bank shareholders were called to exercise their voting rights in favour of a climate change-related resolution at the bank's Annual General Meeting (AGM). Resolution 10, in Standard Bank's Notice of AGM, called on the bank to adopt and publicly disclose a policy on lending to coal-fired power projects and coal mining operations. The resolution was proposed by activist shareholders, supported by Just Share.
350Africa.org joined Earthlife Africa and the Campaign for a Just Energy Future outside the Standard Bank AGM, united in our call for Africa’s biggest lender to the oil and gas industry to do more in terms of tacking the climate crisis and as a meaningful start, report on how exposed the banks' lending, financing, and investment activities are to climate risks.
Ahead of the shareholder vote, the bank's board recommended that shareholders vote against the resolution. Their attempts to push back on the resolution raised the profile of this vote resulting in shareholders voting in support on public policy on coal power and surprising support on climate risk disclosure. It is rare that resolutions that are not supported by the bank's board gets as much support as the Standard Bank vote.
- For resolution 10.1 on climate disclosure, which would have required the bank to report to shareholders its assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions and the bank's exposure to climate change risk, 38% voted for and 61% against.
- For resolution 10.2 on public coal policy, which requires the bank to adopt and publicly disclose a policy on lending to coal-fired power projects and coal mining received 55% voted for and 45% against. This resolution is therefore binding.
Thursday’s AGM was a victory and an incredible step in the right direction for responsible investments in South Africa, as it demonstrates that investors are beginning to place issues related to the climate crisis higher up on their agenda. This AGM’s outcome suggests that while the commercial finance sector is slowly beginning to move in the right direction, public finance institutions like the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) are seriously lagging behind in taking on progressive action against climate crisis as a development priority.