Investor Schroder commits to zero carbon energy

Tom Levitt reports on his outing to the 2017  Schroder’s AGM on behalf of ShareAction’s AGM Army… (This article also appears on ShareAction’s web site)

There’s always an air of anticipation at a corporate AGM: will my question be taken seriously? How long must I wait before my moment in the spotlight? What clever way of not quite saying ‘no’ will they come up with?

At the Schroder’s 2017 AGM I needn’t have worried. The previous month they were named ‘Most Responsible Asset Manager in Europe’ by ShareAction so we were amongst friends; and with barely 40 people present we were done in an hour.

Tom and Anne-Marie prepare for (Share)Action

So I was confident when I stood up to ask ‘Will you join other companies in the RE100 initiative to commit to 100 per cent renewable energy in your own operations within a reasonable time scale, to be set by you?’ The answer came: ‘Yes.’

Actually, the official answer, given by the Chairman, was ‘We use 60 per cent renewable now, we’ll achieve 75 per cent in 2020 and 100 per cent in 2025’, but when I asked CEO Peter Harrison later ‘Does that mean you’ll be joining the RE100?’ his reply was much more succinct: ‘Yes’.

Something for me and Anne-Marie Williams, ShareAction’s Investor Engagement Manager, to celebrate! Her question (just before mine, in her own right) concerned the lengths the company would go to in persuading their investees to work to avoid that 2 degree rise in global warming. Her reply from CEO Peter Harrison was very positive, making me even more optimistic about mine to follow. Avoiding the two degrees requires a rapid drop of 60 per cent in fossil fuel use, he agreed. Experts today say that figure’s 80, but he’s headed in the right direction.

Talking to Peter Harrison after the meeting he clearly ‘got it’, acknowledging the responsibility of investors in changing investee policy on climate change. ‘The reason we have a climate change problem is because so many people have taken so many short term decisions over so long,’ he said, absolutely hitting the nail on the head. I’ve since had his permission to use that quote in my next book, The Company Citizen, to be published towards the end of the year!

Peter then graciously accepted Anne-Marie’s offer to put Schroder’s in touch with RE100 to get them working together on a timetable of action for 2025.

Why had it taken this responsible business until now to commit? Their global company may, in some countries, operate out of accommodation where they’re not in charge of decisions on energy supplies – or where zero carbon energy may not be readily available. But they’re on course to meet their 2020 target and have 7 years to make it 100 per cent by 2025.

I somehow think they’ll do it… result!