The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Ginny Cleaveland, Deputy Press Secretary, Fossil-Free Finance, Sierra Club,

Shareholders of major US banks vote on proposals urging progress on climate & Indigenous rights

Resolutions call on banks to align their fossil fuel financing with their net-zero commitments


Today, major US banks Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo held their annual general meetings, where each faced multiple shareholder votes calling for progress on implementing their climate and human rights commitments. These banks were three of the four biggest fossil fuel financiers in the world in the seven years following the Paris Agreement, according to the annual Banking on Climate Chaos report.

Shareholders of Bank of America (7%), Citigroup (9.94%), and Wells Fargo (unknown*) voted in support of a resolution calling on the banks to adopt a time-bound phase-out of financing for new fossil fuel expansion. Those proposals were filed by Trillium Asset Management at Bank of America, Harrington Investments at Citigroup, and Sierra Club Foundation at Wells Fargo.

Similar resolutions were filed last year at Bank of America (11%), Citigroup (12.8%), and Wells Fargo (11%). Investor filers made several amendments to the fossil fuel financing proposals at the banks this year, including asking banks to adopt a policy to phase out financing for projects and companies engaging in new fossil fuel exploration and development, which is incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C, and encouraging banks to provide financing for energy sector clients to credibly transition to cleaner technologies, which could safeguard against greenwashing and accelerate the clean energy transition.

Other resolutions called on banks to set absolute emissions reduction targets for 2030, and to disclose transition plans for meeting their 2030 climate targets. The New York City and New York State Comptrollers filed an absolute emissions target proposal at Bank of America (11.5%). As You Sow filed transition planning proposals at Bank of America (28.5%), and Wells Fargo (unknown*). Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace filed an Indigenous rights proposal at Citigroup (31.06%).

In response to the news, Jessye Waxman, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign, issued the following statement:

“Investors have once again failed to align their voting with their stated positions on climate-related financial risk. Stewardship is central to many investors’ own net-zero commitments, so it’s alarming that investors — including the biggest institutional investors like BlackRock and Vanguard — continue to choose a hands-off approach to climate risk mitigation. Investors sent the message that banks need to disclose transition plans for meeting their near-term targets, but it remains clear that banks’ current targets and policies are not sufficient and must be strengthened. As the climate crisis worsens, investors must move beyond calls for disclosure only and demand companies take real steps to align their business practices with their stated climate commitments.
The fact that so many investors voted against asking banks to reconcile their climate pledges with their fossil fuel financing activities suggests that most investors still don’t understand that climate change poses a systemic risk to their entire portfolios and the economy. Investors that put narrow, short-term interests of individual companies ahead of the long-term strength of their portfolios are doing a disservice to their clients and to future generations.”


Unlike political elections, shareholder resolutions do not need to receive more than 50% of a vote to succeed or be taken seriously. Even relatively low vote totals can represent tens of billions of dollars in investment capital, and send a powerful message from shareholders that is difficult for a company’s leadership to ignore.

All of the climate-related resolutions voted on today were publicly supported in advance by several large institutional investors, including Britain’s biggest asset manager Legal & General Investment Management, as well as the New York City and New York State Comptrollers, the Vermont State Treasurer, the Seattle City Employees Retirement System, Vancity Investment Management, and more. The vote totals suggest that major asset managers BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street — three of the largest shareholders of the big banks with outsized impact on the voting results — failed to support the proposals.

Climate advocacy groups and responsible investors have been increasingly disappointed with global investors — including major asset managers like BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street — for their weakened support of climate-related shareholder proposals. The Sierra Club has specifically critiqued BlackRock for its “abdication of leadership” and Vanguard for withdrawing from the Net Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) initiative.


On Wednesday, April 26, Goldman Sachs shareholders will vote on proposals calling on the bank to phase out financing fossil fuel expansion (filed by Sierra Club Foundation), set absolute emissions reduction targets (filed by the NYC Comptroller), and publish transition plans for meeting its 2030 climate targets (filed by As You Sow). Advocates and community leaders plan to hold a rally and press conference outside the Goldman Sachs annual meeting in Dallas, Texas.

Next month, the last two of the six major US banks will hold their annual meetings — JPMorgan Chase on May 16 and Morgan Stanley on May 19 — both of which face a similar suite of climate proposals as their peers.

*Wells Fargo has yet to announce vote totals for this year.

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