Delta Air Lines Shareholders Vote for Transparency on Climate Lobbying
Marking another victory for climate-focused investors, a majority of shareholders voted for improved transparency into the climate lobbying practices at Delta Air Lines at the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday.
Shareholders voted on a proposal filed by BNP Paribas Asset Management, requesting that Delta’s Board of Directors issue a report outlining if, and how, the airline’s lobbying activities align with the goals of the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C.
The same proposal received a 46% vote at last year’s AGM.
Delta was one of the first major airlines to launch a goal to achieve carbon neutrality. Early last year, the company committed to invest $1 billion towards funding efforts to advance clean air technologies, reduce carbon emissions and waste, and establish new projects to mitigate the balance of emissions.
As investor interest in climate action intensifies, however, the focus of several investors has shifted beyond initiatives targeting in-house activities at companies, and towards ensuring that companies are advocating for change outside of their own immediate operations. In October 2020, a group of leading investors initiated a campaign targeting the Chief Executive Officers and Chairs of Boards of Directors of the largest U.S.-based corporate greenhouse gas emitters, calling on the companies to disclose how their climate lobbying aligns with the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement and science-based climate policies. The investors in the campaign were all signatories of Climate Action 100+, which targets the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to promote taking necessary action on climate change, and of the sustainability-focused Ceres Investor Network.
Kirsten Snow Spalding, Senior Director of the Ceres Investor Network, said:
“Policy is a critical piece of addressing the climate crisis, so lobbying has become a link to changes in the real economy. As the imperative to transition to a net zero emissions economy becomes clearer every day, investors need federal and state climate policies to set the framework that will help them to invest and deal with the systemic risk of climate change. Policymakers, in turn, can support rapid industry transition to a clean energy future or they can delay and send mixed signals to investors.”
The vote marks the latest in a string of successes for sustainability focused investors in this year’s AGM season, addressing companies in emissions-intensive industries. Last month, backed by several major investors, activist investor Engine No. 1 gained 3 board seats on energy giant ExxonMobil’s Board of Directors, and a majority of shareholders at Chevron voted for a resolution mandating the company to reduce Scope 3 emissions.
Adam Kanzer, Head of Stewardship at BNP Paribas Asset Management, said:
“Corporations have a significant impact on climate policy, directly and through their trade associations. This string of majority votes is strong recognition by investors that these efforts must be fully aligned with the “well below 2 degrees” goal of the Paris Agreement.”