30 March 2020

The Europe Beyond Coal response to the special arrangements for the AGM season during the COVID-19 outbreak

30 March 2020

The Europe Beyond Coal response to the special arrangements for the AGM season during the COVID-19 outbreak

The COVID-19 crisis is having a profound impact on European society. The Europe Beyond Coal campaign coalition wants to express solidarity to all those touched by the crisis. We also express our gratitude to the health care professionals who are the front line defense against the pandemic. We must do our part and take government restrictions seriously in order to contain the virus, and to avoid overburdening health care systems. Europe Beyond Coal is therefore discouraging physical participation in Annual General Meetings (AGMs) until the crisis is under control. 

We ask that companies and financial institutions do their part. Most European coal power utilities and financial institutions have not yet held their AGMs and the majority of them are likely to be subjected to special arrangements that differ from the norm. This may mean, for example, that the AGM will be postponed, held completely online or a mixture of physical and virtual participation. Irrespective of the eventual format of their AGMs, the companies must now make the most of the options available to them within the limits of their legal powers and do not compromise the shareholders’ rights to use their power during this AGM season. In response to this crisis, governments and central banks all over the world have enacted fiscal and monetary stimulus measures to counteract the disruption caused by the Coronavirus. This AGM season remains pivotal for our efforts to halt the climate crisis by holding companies accountable. The AGMs are the primary platform for challenging the company leadership in the public domain and for climate-related shareholder initiatives to be voted on. Given the generous societal support, the advanced technology at their disposal, and waivers granted by the governments, companies must now make sure that both the health crisis and the climate crisis are both tackled without restricting access to meetings. Failing to do so could inadvertently silence shareholder voices 

 

We therefore request the following from companies:

–  Shareholders must have identical – or improved – participation opportunities as that of a physical meeting that would have occurred in the absence of this pandemic.

– Voting rights at the meeting must be protected, be through advance voting or proxies, without shareholders having to physically attend the meeting. Potential  exposure risks when acquiring a proxy should also be considered and mitigated.

–  Companies should provide the means for shareholders to raise questions via virtual connection, and they should be answered directly by the CEO at the AGM, and included in a Q&A on the company’s website after the AGM.

–  As virtual meetings may exclude shareholders unfamiliar with, or with limited  access to, teleconferencing technology, companies should seek ways to bridge the digital divide prior to adjourning the meeting.

 

Europe Beyond Coal will continue to advocate for a healthier and more sustainable coal-free future. The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrates the need to work together to build greater resilience into our societies in a just and equitable way. Whatever form AGMs take, we must continue working together to reduce health risks from air pollution, redirecting investment and finance to truly clean and sustainable renewable energy sources, and cementing plans and community support measures to ensure a just transition out of coal happens in Europe by 2030 at the latest. 

 

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