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Protesting shareholders

The word eco today looks at the recent general meeting of TotalEnergies last Wednesday, May 25, and the “noise” caused by some shareholders.

franceinfo: Protesting shareholders during this AG, that is to say?

Gregoire Lecalot: Yes, the general meeting of TotalEnergies last Wednesday, May 25, threw them into the spotlight. They use their votes in GA to try to influence the groups’ climate strategy. It is logically in the energy sector that the trend is most marked and also in certain investment funds.

Their method, table resolutions that relate to corporate climate policies. About thirty texts of this type have been filed in Europe this year. It’s not much, but it’s double last year.

Is this the start of a movement?

That would be going a little hastily. The assembly of TotalEnergies demonstrated the limits of the exercise. First, the number of shareholders who carried this resolution asking the group to accelerate its policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was tiny compared to the whole: 11 out of 28,000 shareholders.

Then there was no vote on the resolution: it was blocked before arriving at the GA for legality issues, explained the management. Finally, TotalEnergies’ climate policy, against which the protesting shareholders voted, was nevertheless massively validated by the general meeting at 89%.

Comment from the CEO of TotalEnergies, Patrick Pouyanné: “If you consider that the strategy does not suit you, everyone is free, including not to keep their shares of TotalEnergies.”

So it’s much ado about nothing?

Well the interest is perhaps precisely the noise. The initiative of these TotalEnergies shareholders was widely reported. And she still invited herself to the GA. In a very muted way, since Patrick Pouyanné was content to answer written questions. But it undoubtedly had the existence that its authors hoped for. Especially since the authors in question are not anti-capitalists or militant ecologists: La Banque Postale, the Edouard de Rothschild fund or even MN, one of the largest Dutch pension funds.

These shareholder pressures can still have an effect. TotalEnergies has thus agreed to publish more information on its climate report. And if the French giant has decided to have its climate policy approved in general meetings since last year, it is precisely to avoid having this transparency imposed on it by its shareholders. The misadventure has just happened to its American competitor Exxonmobile.

So, we are still far in France and in Europe from what is happening in the United States. With more than 500 resolutions on environmental or social subjects, American shareholders are showing much more audacity. It must be said that the American policeman of the financial markets has relaxed its rules to allow the filing of these iconoclastic and minority resolutions. Which is not the case on this side of the Atlantic.

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