Investors under pressure over EU business lobby

Institutional investors worth nearly $70 billion have called on nine major companies to cut ties with EU lobbying firms known for undermining climate policies.

Coordinated by Share Action, the funds targeted multinationals over their links with Business Europe and other trade associations known for sceptical positions on climate change.

They wrote to chiefs of BHP Billiton, BP, EDF, Glencore, Johnson Matthey, Procter and Gamble, Rio Tinto, Statoil and Total, asking them to reconsider their memberships.

Arne Lööw, head of corporate governance at a Swedish national pension fund, was a signatory to the letters and said: “We believe it is important that investors put pressure on companies who are financing associations seeking to undermine climate legislation.”

Lööw encouraged companies to “withdraw from associations who have lobbied in ways which seem inconsistent with the companies´ own statements on climate”.

Some companies have already changed their affiliations in line with their positions on climate change. Consumer goods giant Unilever left Business Europe last year, while BP and Shell are letting their membership of the Washington-based American Legislative Exchange Council lapse.

Data collected by CDP shows 61% of all companies and 77% of the world’s 500 largest companies get trade associations to speak for them on climate.

Groups like BusinessEurope, Cefic, FuelsEurope and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers sought to water down EU legislation on greenhouse gas emissions, analysts found. These hostile positions often conflicted with their members’ stated policies to support climate action.

European oil companies in particular have taken pains in the past year to present themselves as part of the solution to rising emissions.

That is partly in response to investor pressure, as pension providers, insurers and sovereign wealth funds try to clean up their portfolios.