Follow This works together with investors for climate action.
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The Follow This climate resolution
The Follow This resolution requests oil majors to set emission targets for all emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
The Follow This resolution offers shareholder backing for change. Key to the resolution is that it is encouraging and supportive. It spurs the company on to take leadership in the energy transition.
Goldilocks Trojan Horse
Our resolution is neither too vague nor too prescriptive. In 2016, the resolution was too prescriptive. By 2019, following years of experience and input from investors, it is agnostic with respect to business models and technology, giving the company sufficient flexibility. And yet, the resolution is clear in what it asks for – Paris-compliant targets. This is deemed a “fair ask” by investors (such as MN, one of the ‘supporting six’ in the top 10 investors in the Netherlands, quoted here). Therefore: Goldilocks.
The resolution asks for something that nobody can be against. This will ultimately result in the fulfilment of our mission: as soon as a company aligns its targets with Paris, it will conclude that there is no room for further investments in exploring for more oil and gas. The company will therefore stop exploring for more oil and gas and start exploring for new business models. Therefore: Trojan horse.
Investor rationale to vote for the Follow This resolution is primarily financial. Investors foresee that they cannot make a decent return on their capital in a world economy disrupted by devastating climate change. Continuing to expand oil and gas production over the next decades will bring investors’ entire portfolio in danger. This explains why more and more institutional investors want to avoid an above -2°C world at all cost.
Aegon: “Aegon considers it very important that the goals of Paris are actually achieved in the interests both of society and of our clients for whom it is important that the investments that we make with their pension money are free of climate risks.” (press release)
Church of England: “The position we take in supporting the Follow This resolution at Shell is not one that is targeted at Shell nor is it intended to imply that we see you as a laggard on this issue. Rather, it is based on our belief that we need targets across the whole oil and gas sector and not just at Shell.” (open letter to the Chairman of the board of Shell).
We have made the choice of Shell, BP and Equinor and their investors transparent, and peer pressure followed. For example, after trailblazing shareholders (Actiam, Van Lanschot Kempen, MN, and the Church of England) publicly supported the climate resolution at Shell, others also voted for or abstained.
An honest broker of information
As a result of the transparency that we created, we have a seat at the table of institutional investors. In our engagement, we are a constructive partner and an honest broker of information about what needs to be done to achieve the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.
We don’t communicate information gained from these confidential and no-obligation meetings. We stimulate individuals who want to make a difference and encourage investors to publicly announce their support for the resolution to stimulate debate in the media and within other investor groups.
A new kind of shareholder activism
Scholars differentiate between two types of shareholder activism: short-term financial, and social non-financial. The Follow This created a new kind: social activism, but with a long-term financial rationale. The two existing types of shareholder resolutions direct a company to do or not to do something, instead of supporting the company. This makes the Follow This resolution an additional necessary tool to push companies over the threshold to meaningful targets and actions on climate change.
Follow This is often encouraged by investors behind the scenes because they cannot file these firm resolutions themselves, but they do want to vote for them.
In 2017, Shell responded by being the first oil and gas company in the world to set a climate ambition and the first to do so including the emissions of their products (Scope 3), and promised to invest $1–$2 billion per year in renewable energy. In 2018, Shell promised to translate this ambition into shortt-erm targets.
In the Netherlands, six of the ten biggest institutional investors supported our climate resolution. Moreover, for the first time, the international investor community publicly asked all oil and gas companies to make “concrete commitments to Paris,” and filed similar shareholder resolutions.
By forcing Shell to set a climate ambition, Follow This became Shell’s most influential shareholder and a prominent voice in the international media. Other NGOs and large investors have replicated our climate resolution for ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Origin Energy.