By Susanna Twidale
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s biggest asset manager has removed ExxonMobil and four more companies from its 5 billion pounds ($6.3 billion) Future World funds, and said it would vote against their chairs for failing to confront the threats posed by climate change.
Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), the fund arm of insurer Legal & General which has 1 trillion pounds under management, has been among the most vocal asset managers on climate risks, and will also divest from Hormel Foods, Korea Electric Power Corp, Kroger and Metlife.
The divestment applies only to LGIM’s Future World funds, which it says are set up for clients who want to express a conviction on environmental, social and governance themes.
“In all other LGIM (non-Future World) funds that remain invested in those companies that have not met our criteria, we will vote against the election of the chair of the board,” said Meryam Omi, head of sustainability and responsible investment strategy at LGIM.
“We can vote against the chair on any number of issues, so to do so because of a single issue such as climate change sends a powerful message to companies that they should be raising their standards in this area.”
As part of its Climate Impact Pledge, launched in 2016, LGIM has sought to engage with the largest companies in the oil and gas, mining, electric utilities, autos, food retail and financial sectors on climate change and said it would take action.
“ExxonMobil Corporation has not met our key minimum requirements, including on emissions reporting and targets,” LGIM said in its report.
LGIM said meeting the 2015 Paris climate agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius would mean cutting fossil fuel use by a third by 2040.
Some institutional investors have pressed Exxon to define a path towards meeting the Paris agreement, but the company has not committed to any such targets.
Exxon said it was committed to improving efficiency and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in its operations and that it discloses its so-called scope one and scope two emissions.
Scope one encompasses direct emissions from a company’s operations which it can control, while scope two relates to indirect emissions from the electricity used by a company.
“We’re also providing solutions to consumers to help them reduce their emissions and are developing next-generation lower-emissions solutions, like carbon capture and storage and advanced biofuels,” spokesman Scott Silvestri said.
“We’re on track to meet greenhouse gas reduction measures we announced last year, which are expected to help significantly to improve emissions performance. They include a 15% decrease in methane emissions and a 25% reduction in flaring by 2020.”
Last month, shareholders defeated measures calling for a special board committee on climate change and for a report on the climate risks.
LGIM said Exxon lagged behind European peers such as Equinor, BP and Shell which better disclose their company’s potential climate risks.
Hormel Foods, Korea Electric Power, U.S. retailer Kroger and U.S. insurance company Metlife also failed to meet LGIM’s criteria on climate-related risk disclosure, it said.
($1 = 0.7885 pounds)
(Reporting by Susanna Twidale in London, additional reporting by Jennifer Hiller in Houston; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Mark Potter)