- About Us
- What we do
- What You Can Do
- What is Responsible Investment?
- Investor Resources
We’re conscious that the world of pensions can seem remote from social issues and change. So when we see our message taking hold and having a direct impact, we’re especially proud. Find out about some of ShareAction's more recent and most notable achievements below.
The tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico illustrated that BP grossly underestimated the risks of deep water drilling, with devastating consequences. There remains worrying evidence that BP and other oil companies are doing the same with climate change. In 2010 ShareAction decided to ask pension funds to question oil companies about their risky business and make sure that the money invested by them is used to move big oil beyond oil.
Find out more.
The BP Gulf spill was a stark example of the inadequacy of UK pension funds' scrutiny of companies' exposure to environmental and social risk, but the problem is much wider. In response ShareAction called on the government to tighten up the regulations for pension funds, requiring them to state not just their policy, but how they act on environmental and social risks.
Find out more here.
Early in 2010 ShareAction co-ordinated two shareholder resolutions, asking BP and Shell to publish details of the environmental, social and financial risks associated with their tar sands project. Thanks to the involvement of thousands of our supporters the Shell AGM saw 1 in 10 shareholders refusing to heed the company's recommendation to vote against the resolution, just weeks after 1 in 7 investors in BP (controlling nearly £10 billion in the company's stock) refused to back management on tar sands.
These results - with some of the biggest pension funds in the world supporting our resolutions - were a massive achievement and sent a strong signal to Shell and BP. It is rare in the UK for campaigners to secure sufficient investor support to even have such resolutions discussed, however securing this level of support (well over 10% in both cases) is exceptional. The campaign attracted a large amount of media coverage, which was as important in increasing the pressure on Shell and BP as the resolutions themselves.
In response to this unprecedented action, both BP and Shell rushed to meet with investors, and made important disclosures as a result. This was in stark contrast to their previous strategy (especially in the case of BP) of saying as little about their tar sands projects as possible. In place of silence, BP was suddenly holding high level meetings to explain its Canadian projects with key players in the City. Important new information came to light regarding BP's preparedness for catastrophic climate change, the ramifications of which are still being explored by oil and gas analysts as well as environmentalists. As for Shell, the resolutions prompted detailed disclosures on carbon price, predictions for oil demand, and their Carbon Capture & Storage plans for mining projects.
More importantly though, this campaign has shown that investor action is an important and viable tool for holding companies to account over environmental, social and governance issues in the UK. Several major investors have publicly said that they will be pressing BP and Shell for much greater transparency. Furthermore, it is clear that pension funds and fund managers have been forced to sit up and take notice of the views of the people on whose behalf they invest billions of pounds.
Find out more.
Our joint campaign with Oxfam to secure the continuing availability of affordable generic medicines in developing countries centred on a legal action in India brought by pharmaceuticals giant Novartis.
Oxfam argued that Novartis' legal challenge could effectively have created a "medical apartheid", cutting the supply of low-cost drugs, including for AIDS and cancer, to the developing world. In a powerful example of Responsible Investment in action, ShareAction and Oxfam mobilised members of pension funds worth £1.7trn, asking them to put pressure on their funds to exert their influence as institutional investors, to force Novartis to drop its claim. By capturing extensive media coverage, mobilising pension fund members and briefing investors we generated such pressure that one fund manager reported he had "never had so many questions from pension funds on a particular campaign issue."
On 6 August 2007, Novartis dropped its appeal; a move hailed by Oxfam as "a vindication for India and a victory for campaigners."
Less than a year after our Novartis success, we teamed up with CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, to add a new strand to their Unearth Justice campaign on the hidden harms of mining. Combining our expertise on Responsible Investment with CAFOD's in-depth subject and area knowledge, we highlighted the environmental, human rights and investment risks of mining practices in developing countries.
Working alongside local communities in the Philippines, Honduras and the Congo, CAFOD have witnessed the destructive impact of mining. Without consultation, local populations have been displaced, environments subjected to lasting damage and water tables polluted with cyanide. As numerous case-studies illustrate, such mining projects often result in a costly backlash: local protests, a damaged reputation, operations shut down by host governments or even civil unrest, all of which have serious consequences for local people's lives and livelihoods, as well as for investment returns.
Joining forces with CAFOD, we took action by sending briefings to almost 400 large UK pension funds and asset managers, explaining why the ethical concerns associated with mining pose a serious business risk for investors. Mirroring the tactics of our Novartis campaign, we launched an appeal to ShareAction's and CAFOD's supporters, urging them to tell their pension fund to take action. As a result, over 130 pension funds had their policies challenged, prompting them and their fund managers to step up their scrutiny and engagement with mining companies.
In addition to single-issue campaigns, we also work to persuade investors to adopt overall Responsible Investment policies, in order to develop the habit of assessing and addressing the environmental and human rights problems in the companies of which they are shareholders.
We carry out public scrutiny of institutional investors through annual surveys, which have rapidly become a critical force for change. Our 2007/08 reports on Responsible Investment and transparency show a 58% improvement in pension funds' performance and a 23% improvement in fund managers' performance.
In parallel, through constant dialogue and direct engagement with industry players, we have achieved numerous successes, such as persuading the BBC pension fund to hire resources specifically focused on Responsible Investment.