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Climate Resolutions Garner Unprecedented Support at Big Banks' Shareholder Meetings

WASHINGTON -

This morning, shareholders at Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo voted 12.8%, 11%, and 11%, respectively, in support of groundbreaking resolutions pushing the banks to end their support for new fossil fuel development. Any resolution that receives at least 5 percent of the vote is eligible to be refiled next year, and anything that receives 10 percent or more is considered difficult for a company to ignore.

In recent years, shareholder resolutions filed at the top US banks have called for firms to disclose the scale of their financed emissions and to set long-term climate targets. This year’s first-of-their-kind resolutions, filed by the Sierra Club Foundation and other investor members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, went further by calling on the banks to put credible plans in place to achieve those long-term targets. Specifically, the resolutions call for banks to adopt policies by the end of 2022 committing to proactive measures to ensure that their lending and underwriting do not contribute to new fossil fuel development.

The resolutions were publicly supported by New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third largest pension fund in the country, as well as three of New York City’s pensions, and Rhode Island’s and Seattle’s funds. However, the vote totals suggest that major asset managers like BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street, and Fidelity — which are by far the largest shareholders of the big banks, and are therefore uniquely positioned to make a huge impact on important votes – failed to support them, despite their own net-zero commitments and pledges to use their shareholder power to advance climate action.

In response, Sierra Club Fossil-Free Finance Campaign Representative Adele Shraiman released the following statement:

“It’s deeply disappointing that, once again, asset managers like BlackRock and Vanguard have failed to put their money where their mouth is and use their immense power to hold banks accountable to their climate pledges. The rhetoric coming out of these big investors about climate leadership and engaging with their clients on a clean energy transition is worthless if it's not paired with meaningful accountability for clients that are clearly not interested in making that transition a reality. 

“Nevertheless, the fact that this first-of-its-kind effort gained as much support as it did should send a clear signal that the effort to push Wall Street to deal with its climate problem isn’t going anywhere. Big banks have a responsibility to address their massive contribution to the climate crisis and protect their shareholders from climate risk by aligning their policies with their own net-zero commitments and ending support for fossil fuel expansion. The pressure on them to do so from shareholders and the public is only growing stronger.” 

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The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world.

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