QBE Group chairman Mike Wilkins has vowed the insurer will work with oil and gas producers towards reducing carbon emissions rather than cutting them off, after copping a 21.4 per cent protest vote over its policy on exposure to the sector.
As investors put more focus on climate risks, a resolution calling on QBE to set targets for cutting its exposure to the oil and gas sector was rejected by most investors on Wednesday, but still gained more support than a similar push last year.
The resolution, promoted by activist group Market Forces and fund manager Australian Ethical, followed a move earlier this year by QBE to tighten its policy on oil and gas businesses from 2030.
After facing repeated questions over climate change at the meeting, Mr Wilkins played down the 21.4 per cent vote in favour as reflecting investors’ economy-wide concerns, rather than those relating to QBE specifically.
He supported this by saying only 3.6 per cent of shareholders had backed the first part of the resolution to require a change in the company’s constitution. This change would have been needed to set the exposure targets.
Mr Wilkins said climate change risks were “material,” and he left open the possibility of refinements to its policies, but rejected calls for a tougher stance on oil and gas clients.
“The important thing is, we think that the sensible thing to do is work with our customers as we approach the target dates that we’ve set,” Mr Wilkins said.
“Because what we don’t want to do is throw the baby out with the bathwater, and in a number of cases some of our customers are at the forefront of the transition to greener forms of energy. We want to actually help them with that, rather than just cut them off.”
Market Forces campaigner Pablo Brait highlighted that investor support for a tougher stance on oil and gas had increased since last year, when a resolution on the topic attracted a 13 per cent vote in favour. “The fact that more QBE shareholders supported this resolution in 2021 compared with 2020 despite QBE having released oil and gas exposure policies shows just how inadequate those policies are,” Mr Brait said.
Mr Wilkins also reiterated QBE’s guidance from earlier in the year, saying it expected to resume dividend payments this year, paying out up to 65 per cent of adjusted cash profit.
A concise wrap of the day on the markets, breaking business news and expert opinion delivered to your inbox each afternoon. Sign up Here.
Source: Thanks smh.com