THE Church of England Pensions Board has criticised the car manufacturer Volkswagen (VW) for rejecting a shareholder request to explain how its lobbying activities mitigate climate risks.
The Pensions Board and a Swedish fund, AP7, tabled the proposal last week, with the support of five other European investors, “after more than three years of dialogue with VW which have not yielded any significant improvement in the company’s position”, a statement from the Pensions Board said.
The proposal took the form of an amendment to VW’s Articles of Association, “intended to ensure that future sustainability reporting includes an assessment of their lobbying’s impact and alignment with its climate goals”.
The Pensions Board announced last Friday that the proposal had been rejected, however. “The continued rejection of this request for transparency is in contrast to many of its German peers including Mercedes-Benz and BMW, which have both made recent public commitments to include a review of climate lobbying policies and positions as part of their annual disclosures,” a statement said.
It reported VW’s board of management as saying that it “alone is responsible for deciding on the content of the non-financial report in accordance with the interests of the company”.
The Pensions Board’s senior engagement manager, Clare Richards, said: “VW says it wants to play a leading role in a world of zero-emission and autonomous mobility, but then it fails to make, let alone deliver on, a public commitment to greater transparency on how it supports ambitious climate policies. This calls into question the sincerity of the company’s intentions as well as the Board’s leadership in overseeing company management.”
Other investors also expressed disappointment in VW’s rejection of the proposal. They included Charlotta Dawidowski Sydstrand, sustainability strategist at AP7, who said: “It speaks volumes that they have rejected the amendment on the basis of saying the Board knows best, yet the Board is still failing to deliver transparent oversight of the company’s climate lobbying.”
A VW spokesperson told the magazine Pensions Expert on Monday: “The Volkswagen Group is of the opinion that the applicants’ request for an addition to the agenda is not admissible. Irrespective of this, the Volkswagen Group already reports publicly on its public affairs activities on a voluntary basis. An annual report sets out the company’s positions on the most important political issues.”