Old Mutual to vote against Sasol over climate targets failure

Old Mutual Investment Managers said it plans to vote against a number of resolutions at the annual general meeting of petrochemicals and fuel company Sasol because of its poor performance on climate targets

The unit of 178-year-old Old Mutual, which has about R340 billion under management according to an industry survey, urged fellow investors to do the same, saying that Sasol’s “commitment to achieving stated targets with respect to climate is regressing.” 

Sasol, which is South Africa’s biggest company by revenue, accounts for about a fifth of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and emits a slew of other pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, which can cause heart attacks and strokes.

It has set a target of cutting emissions by 30% by 2030 and reaching so-called net zero by 2050.

“We are hopeful that this pre-declaration of our voting intentions, both to our peers, clients and to the company itself, will go some way to catalyzing positive action,” Nicole Martens, head of stewardship at OMIG, wrote in a letter to fellow Sasol investors, confirmed by the company to Bloomberg. 

Sasol said it’s preparing a response.

OMIG, which didn’t disclose the stake it holds in Sasol, said it plans to vote against the following resolutions:

  • Approval of the implementation report of the remuneration strategy because climate-related targets used to determine executive pay are being postponed because they haven’t been achieved.
  • Approval of the climate change report because the resolution makes no reference to targets, which is “a step backwards” as resolutions in previous years did.
  • Re-election of Muriel Dube as a non-executive director as she is responsible for climate strategy, and the investment company has “discontent” with the company’s performance and implementation of that strategy.

OMIG’s step was applauded by Just Share, a Cape Town-based shareholder activist group that urges companies to, among other things, improve their performance on climate matters.

“OMIG has made responsible investment history in South Africa: this is the first time that a significant Sasol shareholder has acknowledged that its engagement strategy with Sasol is not delivering results,” Tracey Davies, executive director of Just Share, said in a response to queries.

“Sasol is a systemically important company for the country’s just transition, not only because of its carbon emissions but also because of its influence over government climate policy.”