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Westpac to review lobby group memberships after NFP campaign win

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility has had a big win in its campaign to have Westpac review its membership of business lobby groups

Shareholder activists have won over Westpac through its campaign to see the big bank review its membership of business lobby groups ahead of its annual general meeting.

The not-for-profit group, the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), agreed to withdraw its shareholder resolution it filed to call on the bank to disclose information on its membership of the Business Council of Australia.

The ACCR said it withdrew the application when Westpac had “shown leadership” after it argued the “adversarial campaigning” of industry groups contributed to Australia’s stalled climate and energy policy debate.

Westpac said it “set out principles for engagement with industry associations” and would “commence a review of key industry association memberships in relation to our main areas of policy interest, including a focus on lobbying and advocacy related to climate change” as part of its annual review in November.

This is not the first time that the not-for-profit had big wins in addressing energy and climate change issues among big corporations. The ACCR aims to reveal more about memberships of industry associations, including how much they pay to be a part of the groups and a review of its stances on energy, climate change and emissions.

The ACCR’s BHP resolution had resulted in the big minor company reviewing its $1.8 million a year membership of the Minerals council of Australia and quitting the World Coal Association. A similar ACCR resolution will also be voted on at Origin Energy AGM with the agenda securing the backing of major proxy advisor, ISS.

“Shareholders would benefit from increased disclosure on these issues, as it would allow them to better assess the relative risks and benefits of the company’s climate change and energy policy-related lobbying activities, and how the company is managing those activities,” ISS said in a note to its clients.

The Westpac resolution is the first of its kind for ACCR, which mainly focuses on the mining or energy sectors. The ACCR’s Executive Director, Brynn O’Brien, said the Westpac decision was a “good result for [the bank] and its investors”.

“Lobby groups are accountable to their member companies and member companies are accountable to their investors,” she said. “This is basic corporate governance.”

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