The release of BHP’s long promised industry association review today vindicates shareholders’ concerns in the worst way possible.
BHP has identified material differences on climate and energy policies with: the NSW Minerals Council, the US Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber), the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and the American Petroleum Institute (API). BHP will not leave any of these associations.
BHP notes that the differences between it and the NSW Minerals Council on ‘the relative prioritisation of emissions reductions over other energy policy objectives’ is ‘significant’. BHP has attached no consequences to this reality.
BHP has identified that it is ‘mostly but not fully aligned’ with the Minerals Council of Australia, the Queensland Resources Council, and Coal21. BHP has attached no consequences to this misalignment, or made any other substantive changes.
BHP says it has worked with the Coal21 board to ensure that Coal21’s objective ‘to undertake research and development into low emissions technology options’ is reflected in its constitution.
BHP says that ‘steps are being taken to separate Coal21 from the MCA such that the CEO of Coal21 reports only to that organisation’s Board’. This means is that the Coal21 CEO, Mark McCallum, who is also employed as General Manager of Climate & Energy at the MCA, only reports to the Board of Coal21. It is unclear how this usefully represents the ‘separation’ of each organisation.
In BHP’s 2017 industry association review was underpinned by its commitment to ‘Restricting global warming to 2°C’. There is no mention of this in its 2019 Review.
Quotes attributable to Dan Gocher, Director of Climate & Environment, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR):
“This report is a vindication of BHP shareholders’ concerns in the worst way possible. BHP has asked shareholders to hold fire until the end of the year, and then released an impotent review in which the company refuses to bring any of its industry groups to heel. The investors who backed BHP’s board now look foolish and weak, in the midst of a catastrophic climate-related bushfire crisis in Australia.
“This only amplifies our concerns about incoming CEO Mike Henry’s proximity to the worst of the fossil fuels lobby in Australia.
“That BHP is only mildly critical of Coal21’s ‘broader communications activities’ is scandalous. Over the last 12 months, Coal21 has brought BHP into disrepute through pro-coal advertising and communications that they have planned and published.
“As BHP recognised today, investor ‘expectations continue to move’. But BHP has failed to move with them, and as a result, BHP should expect increasing pressure and scrutiny.
“While BHP accepts that it is substantially misaligned with several of its industry associations, in failing to attach real consequences to any of those groups, BHP has demonstrated its duplicity and weakness.
“Shareholders will be wondering why the “moderate” benefits which BHP receives from its membership of the NSW Minerals Council should trump the “significant” policy differences between the two. Despite BHP accepting some responsibility for its customers’ emissions, the NSW Minerals Council has run a three month campaign against the NSW Independent Planning Commission for daring to consider Scope 3 emissions in its decision-making process."