2021 and beyond? The lack of credible coal exit plans poses challenge to Amundi
Amundi and several other French financial institutions have asked coal companies present in their investment portfolio to adopt coal phase-out plans by the end of 2021. As the year draws to an end, Reclaim Finance releases an new report analyzing 47 coal companie’s exit plans. Our analysis shows that 94% of coal companies still do not have credible, Paris-aligned coal phase-out plans. Amundi is invested in all of these companies, including those that are still developing new coal capacity (about a third of the companies in our sample) or those who have failed to set an exit date consistent with a 1.5°C pathway (about half of our sample).
Amundi still votes in favor of coal expansionists
One of the main weaknesses of Amundi’s coal policy relates to the fact that it does not apply to all managed assets (1). Most of the assets managed through passive funds (amounting to 10 to 15% Amundi’s total assets under management) remain a blind spot. With the acquisition of Lyxor, the passively-managed non-ESG funds will grow to represent a significant share of Amundi’s total assets under management. The asset manager argues its active engagement policy toward coal actors counterbalances the absence of coal exclusion measures on passive funds. Amundi has publicly stated that it could end up voting against management as soon as 2021 for climate “laggards”, including companies excluded from its active investment universe but present in its passive funds, such as coal expansionists.
However, our analysis of Amundi’s 2021 voting record shows that it kept providing a high level of support to companies developing new coal capacity. Amundi voted in favor of 78% of management resolutions at the 13 coal-expanding companies analyzed in our ‘Coal Companies Watchlist‘ (3). Sometimes, Amundi backs anti-climate strategies outright, as was the case at Glencore’s 2021 AGM, where it approved a “climate” plan in which the mining giant explicitly states that it will “continue to operate [its coal] mines until they reach they end of their lives”. In the meantime, Amundi opposed the appointment of only one (out of eight) Director at the board of Glencore.
An engagement strategy displaying weaknesses
In addition to issues related to the application of Amundi’s policy, the engagement policy itself displays several weaknesses that contributed to Amundi’s demand for coal phase-out plans remaining unheeded.
First, the demand was not precise enough : Apart from the 2030 and 2040 coal phase-out deadlines, Amundi makes no other demands on the content of the plans (4). Therefore, the “successes” it showcases in its engagement report show significant limitations. For example, Amundi prides itself on having obtained a commitment from BHP Group to exit coal by 2022, without being bothered by the fact that BHP’s commitment involves selling its mines to other players who will continue to operate them long after 2022 (5). The same is true for RWE: Amundi praises a “step in the right direction” even though the German company will keep some plants operating until 2038, has taken the Dutch government to court to challenge its coal phase-out schedule, and plans to convert two plants to biomass (6).
Second, the sanctions applied by Amundi are not sufficiently clear and binding. For companies that fail to establish a coal exit plan before the end of 2021, Amundi does not plan to suspend financial services – as the banking subsidiary of BNP Paribas does, for example – but simply to restrict them to so-called green projects (7).
Therefore, we call on Amundi – and all financial institutions engaging coal companies – to: i) specify the detailed content it expects from a credible coal exit plan, including, at least, criteria requiring a detailed exit timetable and a commitment to permanent closure; ii) communicate publicly on the measures put in place vis-à-vis companies that have not responded to this request; and iii) commit to exclude companies that have not remedied this situation within a short period of time.
Amundi’s unprecedented 2019 policy demanding all companies to publish coal phase-out plans has faced major limitations in its application. Behind the veneer of an apparently excellent record, when one looks at the aggregate analysis of its votes (8), Amundi is having difficulty translating its engagement strategy into concrete results, through precise, time-bound demands linked to clear and stringent sanctions (and ultimately to divestment). As regards coal, Amundi will have to considerably strengthen its engagement policy to remain credible as a carbon-neutral investor.