Climate activists disrupt shareholder meetings, target corporate carbon footprints

Photo Courtesy of Bangkok Post

Climate activists have been ramping up pressure on corporations during shareholder meetings, using various tactics to demand action on carbon emissions and climate change. These tactics range from asking numerous questions to more creative approaches, such as singing or even throwing cake at executives.

Volkswagen’s recent shareholder meeting became a focal point for activists, with a cake thrown at supervisory board member Wolfgang Porsche as he celebrated his 80th birthday. Scientist Rebellion activists also held up signs criticising the emissions from the company’s vehicles, while another protester removed her top in protest of Volkswagen’s operations in China’s Xinjiang region, where human rights groups and the US claim genocide is occurring, reported Bangkok Post.

In Paris, Scientist Rebellion members targeted BNP Paribas, bombarding executives with questions about the European banking giant’s climate strategy. This led to frustration among shareholders, who hurled insults at the scientists. However, BNP executives did answer the questions.

CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafe, who refused to draw a line regarding firms investing in new fossil fuel fields, said…

“Do not underestimate the targets we have set.”

Meanwhile, in London, climate activists disrupted HSBC’s gathering, demanding the bank stop investing in fossil fuel companies and accusing the firm of lying. Executives eventually asked for the activists to be removed. Earlier, a group of activists interrupted the Barclays Bank meeting, changing the lyrics to a Spice Girls song to sing “Stop funding fossil fuels and end this madness.”

Lorette Philippot, a campaigner at the environmental group Friends of Earth, explained that shareholder meetings are where companies discuss their performance and make new pledges. She said…

“So it’s our role as a counter-power to both tell the truth about their actions and prevent this annual display of greenwashing.”

Activist interventions at shareholder meetings are not new, but Benedicte Hautefort, the co-founder of financial technology firm Scalens, noted that the “climate issue is rising in a somewhat radicalised way” with “more and more confrontations, sometimes violent.”

In the United States, some corporations have avoided confrontation by continuing to hold virtual meetings, such as oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron and the banking group JPMorgan Chase.

Andrew Logan, senior director for oil and gas at Ceres, a nonprofit that supports sustainability policies through capital markets, said…

“In a world where boards have precious little accountability, it’s a step backwards.”

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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