At Barclays’ 2020 annual meeting, a shareholder proposal asked the board of the U.K. financial services company to report annually on targets to phase out financial activities in the energy and utilities sectors—including lending, project financing, corporate finance, and underwriting—that are not aligned with the Paris Agreement.
Through several discussions, Barclays’ board chair and company leaders explained that the company thought the spirit of the shareholder request—to do more on climate— was reasonable. But they expressed concern about specific language and implementation aspects in the proposal. They also outlined Barclays’ engagement with the proponent and how the company planned to proceed.
We were pleased to hear a candid assessment by the board chair of Barclays’ approach to climate change and how the company intended to improve upon—and even in some cases go beyond—what peers were doing on this topic. Our discussions made clear that the chair was well-informed and committed to meaningful progress on both addressing climate-related risks and disclosing how Barclays is meeting targets that align with the Paris Agreement. To that end, the company had decided to put forth its own climate-related proposal, which set ambitious goals to become net zero on all GHG emissions by 2050 in alignment with the Paris Agreement, to disclose targets and strategy, and to report annually on progress.
Although both the shareholder and management proposals focused on a similar topic, they required different approaches to implementation. It was important to consider those different approaches, as each proposal was binding if it drew enough support. Ultimately, we voted against the shareholder proposal and in favor of the management proposal. In our view, the management proposal, while ambitious, presented a workable transition over a sensible time frame. We determined that management’s approach was in the best interest of long-term shareholders.