FT publishes ECCR Chair’s letter on shareholder activism

‘Shareholders have more power than they think’

On the 7th December 2017 the FT published a letter from Christopher Stockwell, ECCR Chair, stating that more needed to be done to educate people ‘in the pews’ on their ability to influence company behaviour.

Christopher’s letter was written in reply to a letter published in the FT on the 4th December 2017 advocating shareholder engagement as a powerful lever in the pursuit of decarbonisation.

The full text of Christopher’s letter follows:

Sir,

We heartily endorse the need for shareholders to engage with companies (Shareholders should help deliver decarbonisation 4 Dec). The Church Commissioners and other faith investors are to be commended for the role they have played in organising resolutions at company AGMs and in engaging in dialogues with company boards. Such activism by church shareholders is to be welcomed.

However, the call in the letter for other shareholders to engage and to challenge management begs the question of what is being done to make the ordinary men and women “in the pews” aware of the issues and of their ability to do something about it? The shareholdings of church goers in ISAs, pension funds, and savings dwarf those of church corporate funds. There is a need to make people aware of their ability to engage and their duty to do so.

Our experience of encouraging churchgoers to think about their use of money and resources is that many are very keen to tackle company managers about the way companies are run, not just in the oil and gas sector. There is a large body of people of faith who care about the world they and their children live in but who do not realise that they have the right to vote shares, which are held by managers or trustees, the ability to write to company directors, the right to question company policies in letters in newspapers etc.

I hope the signatories of the letter and others who share their concerns will help us and likeminded groups to educate and encourage shareholders to engage with companies they part own, and therefore the policies carried out in their name.

Christopher Stockwell

Chair, Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR).