Responsible investment NGO ShareAction is leading a campaign with a group of institutional investors targeting Credit Suisse for more action on climate change, and particularly to address its exposure to fossil fuel financing.
The group announced that it has filed a shareholder resolution at Credit Suisse asking the bank to clarify its fossil fuel financing strategy, and provide disclosures outlining its short-, medium-and long-term plans to reduce its exposure, along with disclosures on the company’s strategy to align with the Paris Agreement goal to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C.
The new initiative follows a successful campaign led by ShareAction last year at HSBC, urging more significant climate action by the bank, resulting in HSBC releasing a new policy to phase out financing of coal-fired power and thermal coal mining.
According to the new resolution, while Credit Suisse was among the first European banks to commit to align with the 1.5°C, it remains one of Europe’s largest fossil fuel financiers. The resolution cites external studies indicating that Credit Suisse provided over $82 billion to top fossil fuel companies between 2016 – 2020, making it Europe’s 4th largest financier of fossil fuels, and the third largest financier of the world’s top 30 coal power companies.
While Credit Suisse instituted fossil fuel financing policies in 2020, including commitments to not finance companies deriving more than 25% of revenue from thermal coal extraction or coal power, or to offshore and onshore oil & gas projects in the Arctic region, ShareAction noted that the policies lag behind many of the bank’s peers, do not extend to its asset management arm, and does not include restrictions for unconventional oil and gas.
In its statement announcing the resolution, ShareAction also stated that Credit Suisse’s “sustainability credentials have taken a particular hit,” following a series of high profile risk management missteps. The bank has recently announced a significant reorganization, which included the integration of its Sustainability, Research & Investment Solutions (SRI) organization into its other business divisions, and several senior sustainability executives have left the firm, including Chief Sustainability Officer Marisa Drew and SRI CEO Lydie Hudson.
In the resolution, the investors said:
“Investors encourage the bank to bring its coal, oil, and gas policies in line with leading practice in the sector, provide additional disclosures on its plans to reduce its exposure to fossil fuel assets on a timeline consistent with the 1.5C goal, and to set up a reporting framework to report on this plan on an annual basis. Investors urge the Company to support this proposal, which presents an opportunity for the bank to improve its ESG credentials and set itself apart as a climate leader.”
The investors filing the resolution include Actares, Amundi, Bernische Lehrerversichergungskasse, Bernische Pensionskasse, Cap Prévoyance, CIEPP – Caisse Inter-Entreprises de Prévoyance Professionnelle, Ethos Services SA, LGPS Central Limited, Pensionskasse des Bundes PUBLICA, Pensionskasse Post, and Pensionskasse Stadt Zürich.
Following the announcement of the resolution, Credit Suisse released a statement:
“Credit Suisse’s sustainability position is clear. We have made a public commitment to achieve net zero across our operations, supply chain and financing activities by 2050. This ambition is underpinned by interim science-based goals by 2030. Importantly, our sustainability approach includes sector-specific climate strategies. As a high-carbon emitter, the oil, gas and coal sector has been prioritized as an area where we are committed to set science-based goals that help us to monitor the reduction of both emissions and lending exposure. This extends to supporting our clients through application of client energy transition frameworks, as we recognize the role we play in engaging our clients to participate in the low carbon transition. Engagement with our shareholders is an essential part of our stakeholder approach and we acknowledge the proposal brought by ShareAction and Ethos Foundation on behalf of the represented shareholders, with whom we broadly consult and engage in dialogue. Detail of important progress, including preliminary reductions in our exposure to financing the oil, gas and coal sector, is available in our 2021 Sustainability Report, which we expect to publish on March 10.”