Standard Bank Accelerates New Era Change at Board Level
JOHANNESBURG – In a show of low confidence, 32.37% of Standard Bank shareholders voted against the re-election of group chairman Thulani Gcabashe at the company’s 52nd annual general meeting (AGM). is held practically yesterday.
Gcabashe and Standard Bank have come under pressure from activism from shareholders and environmental rights groups who want the group to abandon funding for environmentally damaging projects in Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.
One of the groups, Just Share, believed the reasons for the votes against Gcabashe were likely to emerge in the coming months when asset managers released their voting rationale and records.
“It will be interesting to see if this unusually high level of votes against the re-election of a sitting president is in part a reflection of shareholder dissatisfaction with the bank’s management of climate risk,” Just Share said.
At yesterday’s annual general meeting, shareholder organizations and environmental rights advocates raised concerns about the bank’s proposed financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP ), a 1,445 kilometer pipeline stretching from Tanzania to Uganda.
Campaigners claim that EACOP, if built, threatened the environment, communities, wildlife and the planet. They also highlighted the pipeline’s human rights impacts on affected communities, the intimidation of activists and the impact of the Net Zero by 2050 scenario recently released by the International Energy Agency. on the bank’s fossil fuel financing decisions.
Shareholder activists asked the group about Total’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project in Mozambique where Standard Bank is one of the banks financing this project as well as the climate competence of Standard Bank’s board of directors.
However, Standard Bank Managing Director Sim Tshabalala said project lenders, including Standard Bank, have ensured that Mozambique’s LNG project adheres to international environmental industry standards, including the Equator Principles.
“The lenders ensured that the project design included technology to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, such as routine zero flaring.
“In our opinion, the role of gas as a transitional fuel was definitely a consideration in the lending decision and cannot be excluded from our responses to this question.
“The Mozambique LNG project is crucial in promoting the switch from coal to gas in power generation,” Tshabalala said.
Gcabashe, who was appointed group chairman at the end of the company’s 2015 AGM and is a seasoned executive having served as chief executive officer of Eskom between 2000 and 2007 and previously chairing the boards of MTNZakhele and of Imperial Holdings.
Gcabashe opened yesterday’s general meeting with a statement confirming that the bank would publish, with its 2021 reporting to shareholders, a climate strategy and short, medium and long-term objectives to reduce its exposure to fossil assets according to an aligned timetable. on the Paris objectives.
This followed last week’s meeting between the bank and co-reporters, including Just Share, of a non-binding shareholders’ resolution linked to climate risk, which the bank declined to file earlier this month. .
“At the meeting, Standard Bank confirmed its intention to publish a climate strategy in accordance with the resolution’s request, and confirmed that it does not oppose the filing of non-binding resolutions by shareholders,” Just said. Share.