For years the $85tn asset management industry largely shrugged off global warming, ignoring environmental campaigners in favour of dividends. But after the financial crisis the pressure from clients, policymakers and the public to hold companies to account intensified.
The debate is still largely focused on making pledges rather than forcing action. But the matter has become more urgent and investors are increasingly filing and backing shareholder campaigns such as the one led by Follow This. The number of investor resolutions focused on climate change across all sectors doubled to 42 between the 2013-14 and 2016-17 voting seasons, according to data provider Proxy Insight. Most notable was Exxon’s 2017 annual meeting, when more than 60 per cent of shareholders, including BlackRock, revolted and voted against the board. Exxon has subsequently improved its disclosure of information around climate change.