Financial services provider Standard Bank Group has committed to publishing a climate strategy, as well as short-, medium- and long-term targets to reduce its exposure to fossil fuel assets on a timeline aligned with the Paris Agreement.
The company will publish these pieces of policy in the first half of 2022.
This follows after shareholders proposed the inclusion of this information as part of the bank’s reporting to shareholders, as well as associated meetings held with Aeon Investment Management, Abax Investments, Visio Fund Management and activism organisation Just Share on the matter.
Standard Bank states that the shareholders recognise that there are significant challenges associated with the setting of meaningful and credible targets across the 20 countries on the African continent in which the Standard Bank Group operates.
“They were encouraged that Standard Bank has, nevertheless, committed to publishing a climate strategy in its 2021 reporting to shareholders,” the bank notes.
Standard Bank also took the opportunity to resolve a previous misunderstanding with regard to the bank’s position on shareholders’ rights to propose nonbinding advisory resolutions.
Standard Bank says it is not opposed to shareholders proposing nonbinding advisory resolutions. The board states it will give due consideration to any such resolutions.
The shareholders and the bank have all agreed to engage in a constructive manner on these matters going forward.
Further, it was agreed that Standard Bank would make a formal statement at its next annual general meeting (AGM) that expands on climate change-related commitments.
Just Share director Tracey Davies, on behalf of the shareholders, says the co-filers are pleased that the impasse over the filing of nonbinding advisory resolutions has been constructively resolved, and are encouraged by Standard Bank’s commitment to a firm deadline for release of a Paris-aligned strategy for reducing its exposure to fossil fuels.
Standard Bank Group CE Sim Tshabalala says the company is deeply committed to supporting inclusive and sustainable development and that it values and appreciates shareholder engagement on these matters.
Standard Bank in April 2020 made a decision not to table proposed climate change risk resolutions for voting by shareholders at its AGM in May 2020, following pressure from Just Share and Raith Foundation to do so.
Davies, at the time, said that although the bank’s climate change resolutions acknowledge the material financial risks posed by climate change and that the bank had improved its disclosure and management of those risks, there were still significant gaps in the disclosure.
She added that there was also a lack of alignment between the bank’s recognition of climate risks and its actions to mitigate those risks.
At first, Standard Bank said Just Share’s proposed resolutions did not meet the requirements of Section 65 of the Companies Act and that the bank was, therefore, not required to table the resolutions at its AGM.