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Sustainable oceans in focus in EOS’s Q2 Public Engagement Report

The Q2 Public Engagement Report from EOS at Federated Hermes takes a deep dive into our oceans, examining threats from overfishing, pollution and global heating. Plus, a look at the recent voting season and why 2021 may come to be seen as a watershed for climate change stewardship.

Fast reading

  • Why a failure to protect marine ecosystems poses a systemic risk to long-term investments
  • “Say-on-climate” proposals provide backdrop to busy voting season
  • Steel industry grapples with decarbonisation challenge

There are plenty more fish in the sea, according to the old adage. But centuries of treating marine habitats as an inexhaustible resource mean that at least a third of fish stocks are now depleted, while microplastic pollution is working its way up the food chain with potentially dangerous consequences for human health.   

The cover story in EOS’s Q2 2021 Public Engagement Report looks at why overfishing, plastic pollution, temperature rises and chemical contaminants are cause for investor concern, and why protecting and conserving the marine environment is essential for human life and the global economy. 

In their article, EOS engagers Sonya Likhtman, Emma Berntman and Lisa Lange set out five key engagement themes that most closely relate to ocean sustainability: climate change, pollution, sustainable fishing, biodiversity and human rights. They explain how EOS engages with companies on these issues, and why it is crucial to reverse the negative impacts of human activity on marine habitats.

“The oceans play a central role in regulating our climate and provide key ecosystem services, such as the production of oxygen and carbon sequestration,” they say. “Failing to protect marine ecosystems will have negative consequences for the global economy, posing a systemic risk to long-term investments.”

A watershed for climate change stewardship?

The EOS team also reflects on the key developments from this year’s voting season, which may come to be regarded as a watershed moment for climate change stewardship. The slate of “say-on-climate” votes – or votes on a company’s climate transition plans – provided the backdrop to a busy season, with Engine No. 1’s proxy battle with Exxon, a Dutch court decision against Royal Dutch Shell, and majority support for a shareholder climate resolution at Chevron all occurring in the same week in May.

Whilst EOS was supportive of the idea of companies offering a vote on their climate transition plans in principle, it had some initial concerns about the concept. It decided to apply a more rigorous approach in its assessment of transition plans, setting a robust standard of alignment with the Paris Agreement goals for companies to pass. This meant that it recommended voting against some high-profile names, including Total, Glencore, Shell and Aena.

The report also looks at the challenges faced by the steel industry – and its supply chain – as steelmakers and miners need to reduce their carbon emissions and improve their energy efficiency to align with the Paris Agreement goals. EOS is engaging with companies to address this knotty problem, which will likely require the adoption of several different solutions, as well as support from policymakers.

To find out more, read the EOS Q2 Public Engagement Report.

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