Anglo American is a large, diversified mining company listed on the London Stock Exchange with a secondary listing in Johannesburg. Founded in South Africa, it has been mining for around 100 years, becoming the largest producer of platinum, as well as a major producer of diamonds, copper, nickel, iron ore and metallurgical and thermal coal. As an energy-intensive company with an annual carbon footprint of approximately 20 million tonnes CO2 and with an exposure to coal mining, investors have for a number of years been concerned about the company’s exposure to the risks associated with climate change.
Given these concerns, Hermes EOS co-signed a letter from investors in 2013 requesting information about the risk management of the issue. While Anglo American was already rated as a leader in climate-related disclosures – as evidenced by its CDP ranking – shareholders were seeking additional information that would help inform the long-term investment case. We therefore raised the idea of filing a shareholder resolution similar to those co-filed at oil and gas companies earlier in 2015.
The shareholder resolution and its supporting statement, drafted by us, asked for enhanced disclosure of Anglo American’s approach to climate change risk, including its management of operational greenhouse gas emissions, strategic portfolio resilience to low-carbon scenarios, research and development of low-carbon solutions, its public policy position on climate change and its overarching corporate governance framework and link to key performance indicators.
At our first meeting with the company to discuss the proposed resolution, we were encouraged by the chair’s indication that he broadly supported our approach. With the help of the Aiming for A coalition of investors, we commenced gathering the necessary shareholder support. Initially, this proved challenging, as a number of shareholders had already divested from the company, in some cases due to climate change concerns. In a demonstration of the company’s supportive approach, the deadline for co-filing was extended until the end of January 2016, by which point the filing coalition had the support of more than 5% of the company’s shareholder base and the company agreed to back the resolution and encourage other shareholders to vote in favour of it. We subsequently spoke at the 2016 AGM in favour of the resolution, welcoming the collaborative approach of the company and highlighting the need for long-range energy efficiency targets. The resolution successfully passed with 96% of votes.
Changes at the company
Early in 2014, the company acknowledged investor concerns on climate change and indicated that it would appraise the risks to its business under low-carbon scenarios, with a view to publishing the results in 2015. Given the challenging economic context at the time the company restricted its initial analysis to the impacts on its thermal coal business. This built on earlier work that examined the risks climate change posed to Anglo American’s operations, principally through impacts on water availability and extreme weather events. The company also updated its public policy position on climate change in which it formally committed to supporting the efforts of the 2015 UN climate change talks in Paris, with the goal to limit the increase in global warming as a result of climate change to 2°C.
Shortly after the co-filing of the resolution, the company announced a major reorganisation of its business, including the planned sale of its coal and iron ore operations, as well as other metals and minerals, leaving it to focus on copper, platinum and diamond mining. Once finalised, this should significantly reduce the exposure of the company to a decline in demand for fossil fuels, although the business will remain highly energy-intensive. We therefore switched the focus of our engagement towards ensuring the company has in place energy efficiency measures over the short, medium and long term, including maintaining appropriate investment in the research and development of low-carbon mining solutions.
At the AGM in April 2016, we spoke in favour of the resolution seeking enhanced disclosure and requesting the company to commit to setting targets for improvements in energy efficiency over the short, medium and long term, together with details of the investment required. We commended the company for achieving a 7% reduction in energy use between 2011 and 2015, meeting the target set in 2011. In response, the chair committed to finalising energy efficiency targets following the restructuring of the business. The chair also agreed to carry out further analysis of the resilience of its principal commodities to low-carbon scenarios, as well as to explore the link between remuneration and climate change-related key performance indicators.
We will continue to discuss with the company the benefits of putting in place stretching long-term energy efficiency targets to help drive the necessary long-term capital investment and behaviour changes across the business. We are also encouraging Anglo American to complete the strategic analysis of its portfolio resilience to climate change, which we believe is now likely to show more opportunities than threats and should thus allay investor concerns. We have also discussed with Anglo American a number of other issues, including community relations and human rights, where the company is working to ensure it is at the forefront of developments in good practice.