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Thematic Issue: Big Technology and the Law / General

An Analysis of ESG Shareholder Resolutions in Australia

Author

Lloyd Freeburn and Ian Ramsay

This article analyses the recent significant increase in number, prominence and impact of shareholder resolutions focused on environmental, social and governance (‘ESG’) issues in Australia. The analysis is placed in the context of the legal framework for shareholder resolutions and uses two sources of data: information about shareholder ESG resolutions in listed companies between 2002 and 2019, and interviews with representatives of resolution proponents, institutional shareholders, company directors, governance professionals, and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. It finds a significant increase in the last three years in ESG shareholder resolutions, particularly climate change resolutions, concentrated in a small number of filers, companies and industries. Against a background of modest average levels of support for shareholder ESG resolutions, examples of companies which have recorded high levels of support are notable. Shareholder ESG resolutions are generally recognised as a valuable corporate stakeholder engagement mechanism, producing positive change in some companies.

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