By Lucie Pinson, founder and director of Reclaim Finance. Received the Goldman Environment Award for the Europe region in 2020 in recognition of hes work for the end of coal bank and insurer financing.

Pre-AGM decryption & post-AGM reaction

Last January, TotalEnergies raised nearly €2 billion from major investors. Among them was Amundi, a subsidiary of Crédit Agricole and Europe’s leading asset manager. This little-known player is nevertheless one of the world’s financial market leader. Its investment decisions and the pressure it puts on investee companies can directly accelerate – or slow down – the climate transition.

Amundi capitalizes on the sustainable finance hype by communicating extensively on its climate leadership. The 4 million French individuals who have entrusted Amundi with part of their savings are led to believe that their money “plays a role in addressing the climate emergency”, as Amundi’s communication claims. But is this the reality? The AGM (annual general meeting) season currently in full swing will allow us to check it.

Supporting companies in transition?

Amundi is one of the leading European investors in fossil fuels. It holds over $19 billion in 12 of the largest oil and gas companies. These include Gazprom, ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies, of which it is the second largest shareholder. In other words, Amundi invests in companies that are far from being green.

But Amundi prides itself on using its influence as a shareholder to accelerate their transition. At first glance, Amundi seems to be an active shareholder, as shown by its support for ESG resolutions and its filing of climate resolutions, as it did recently in Japan and Switzerland.

However, a closer analysis of its voting and engagement strategy reveals a different reality. Not only does Amundi not ask companies to stop developing new oil and gas projects – a sine qua non condition to limit global warming to 1.5°C – but worse, Amundi approved the flawed “climate” plans presented by Shell and TotalEnergies last year. As a result, Amundi tacitly supports projects like EACOP, TotalEnergies’ giant oil pipeline across Uganda and Tanzania, linked to massive climate and environmental risks and to heavy human rights violations.

Coal: Amundi’s passivity makes it guilty

The same goes for coal, in which Amundi still holds more than $4 billion, notably because of its passive management. While it had announced that it would vote against companies developing new projects in this sector, Amundi nevertheless massively supported them at the 2021 AGMs, for example by validating Glencore’s false climate plan, which wishes to exploit its coal mines “until the end of their lifespan”, i.e. much longer than science recommends.

Amundi’s climate tragicomedy unfolds in three acts. Act 1: the investor adopts an ambitious coal policy in 2019. Act 2: it betrays its promise by failing to apply it to a large portion of its “passive” funds, a growing problem following Amundi’s recent takeover of Lyxor. Act 3: to make up for this, Amundi claims to be in dialogue with companies in the sector and to oppose them at their AGMs, but our analysis shows this is not the case.

Finally the turning point?

Amundi can start correcting the situation today. During the annual general meetings, many companies are asking their shareholders for their opinion on their climate plan: among them, 5 of the 7 European oil majors. However, a coalition of investors of which Amundi is a member has revealed that none of them has a climate plan that is compatible with the climate emergency. Common sense would therefore imply that Amundi vote against this greenwashing. This would be all the more logical as it recently took a public position in favour of the inclusion of demanding criteria in companies’ climate plans, criteria that are not found in the documents presented by TotalEnergies or Shell.

At its annual general meeting on May 18th, Amundi will also undertake this exercise and consult its shareholders on its own climate strategy. There is no suspense behind this vote since Crédit Agricole owns 70% of Amundi and will validate its strategy, however unambitious it may be. But for minority shareholders aware of the climate crisis, the roadmap is clear: vote against this “climate” strategy as long as Amundi does not strongly sanction companies developing new fossil projects.

Post-AGM reaction:

Questioned during its Annual General Meeting on the inconsistency between its pro-climate discourse and its concrete actions, Amundi ducked the question. Regarding its investments in oil and gas majors, the largest European asset manager claimed that it was analyzing each company’s “overall strategy” and then deciding on a possible vote against their climate plans. The problem: Amundi has no red line on oil and gas expansion and therefore still invests in companies that are still developing new fossil fuel projects.

Furthermore, the 2nd shareholder of TotalEnergies refused to announce its vote intention on the major’s failing climate plan. Amundi stated that “Amundi, by definition, does not reveal its voting positions prior to the general meetings”. Yet they had pre-declared their vote in 2021.

On the coal side, Amundi provided a vague response to our concerns about the $1 billion it still holds in companies developing new coal projects. No firm commitment to really exit coal, no promise to systematically vote against the management of these companies. We leave with as many questions as when we arrive.