Press Release 15 March 2013: The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) challenges Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) to have greater transparency in its forthcoming AGM arrangements and increased commitment to ensuring the voices of UK shareholders are heard.
UK investor coalition ECCR has expressed deep dissatisfaction with Shell over its plan to restrict access to its 2013 AGM to shareholders who are present in The Hague and the ramifications this decision has for British shareholders in the company. In previous years’ AGMs the company has allowed British shareholders to participate from London via a live audio-visual link.
ECCR has voiced concern for how the new arrangements – made without consultation with ECCR or other regular UK AGM attendees – will limit the ability of British shareholders to fully exercise their rights as owners of the company. A proposed replacement event – a presentation in London by the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer – is inadequate as non-executive directors such as the Chair of the Remuneration Committee will not be present therefore drastically limiting the range of questions that can be asked and adequately answered.
In light of Shell’s recent decision to pause its Arctic drilling programme and the publication of a highly critical US Dept of Interior Report it’s likely that Shell would have faced a number of tough questions from UK-based shareholders this year.
This retrograde step is being proposed precisely at a time when shareholders are being encouraged by the British government to take greater interest and responsibility for the governance of the companies which they own and for companies to be more transparent in their operations. David Cameron’s speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January set out the main priorities for the UK’s Presidency of the G8 on trade, tax and transparency and called for “….. more transparency on how governments and, yes, companies operate.”
ECCR has called on Shell to review and make additional efforts to include those, currently dis- enfranchised, ‘voices’ of the UK-based shareholders, and in so doing, show the business leadership, integrity and responsibility that David Cameron and UK society is seeking from companies at this time.
Bishop Michael Doe, chair of ECCR,said: “Lord Kerr of Kinlochhead, Deputy Chairman of the Company, and chair of the group of the Directors who brought about the new Company, gave ECCR members assurances that UK-based shareholders would not be disenfranchised by the merger, and yet, in the very next year after he retired from the Board, the Company has decided to cancel the one opportunity that UK-based shareholders have to express their interest and concerns direct and publicly to the Board of Directors. They have as much right, as owners of the Company, to be seen and heard as the representatives of institutions who do not meet their own costs to travel to the Hague. The proposed presentation in London by the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer is no substitute for live participation in the full Annual Meeting.”
For further information please see open letter at www.eccr.org.uk
Notes to editors:
The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) is a church-based investor coalition, registered charity and membership organisation. ECCR leads and collaborates with others in advocacy and awareness raising on issues of business, human rights and environmental stewardship.
ECCR has filed shareholder resolutions at Shell’s AGMs in 1997 and 2006 to raise concerns about the Niger Delta and played a key role in resolutions on the Canadian tar sands filed with BP and Shell in 2010. It has led and participated in dialogue with other companies such as Anglo American, Barclays, BHP Billiton, Cadbury, Diageo, HSBC, Lafarge, Morrisons, Northern Foods, Rio Tinto, Sainsbury, Standard Chartered Bank, Tesco and Vedanta, and with leading fund managers and institutional investors, on a range of issues.
ECCR has made and contributed to submissions to the UK Government and to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, the International Accounting Standards Board, the European Parliament and the International Labour Organisation, and have initiated a debate on migrant workers in the House of Lords.
ECCR’s British, Irish and international members include representatives of many Christian de-nominations, faith-based investors, religious communities and orders, non-governmental organisations, ethical investment managers, and committed individuals.