Mining giant Rio Tinto faced a shareholder revolt at its London annual general meeting (AGM) today, as major shareholders refused to pass its company accounts.
The Church of England Pensions Board, which manages more than £2.3bn of assets, and the South Yorkshire Pension Fund both voted down the accounts after Rio Tinto refused to let UK shareholders vote on resolutions regarding its climate change policy.
Investors worth £47bn, including the Church of England Pensions Board, had filed two resolutions with the miner’s Australian arm in February. These resolutions were designed to push Rio Tinto into disclosing how much it spends on its membership to coal lobbying groups.
“I would like to record our considerable disappointment at the decision by the board not to grasp the opportunity to have supported the resolution and in particular not to allow a vote to have taken place on this issue at today’s AGM," said the Church of England Pensions Board's Adam Matthews.
"As a result of your decision not to treat shareholders equally in relation to this resolution, the Church of England Pensions Board have today voted against Rio’s report and accounts. We do not do this lightly and hope that the board will reflect upon the missed opportunity in its response."
A spokesperson for Rio Tinto pointed out that the UK shareholders had been advised they could make their own resolution to the UK branch of Rio Tinto.
The company's directors had previously told the investors proposing the resolutions that they did not consider the them "to be in the best interests of Rio Tinto or of its shareholders".
"We have had a substantive position on climate change since 2005, which recognises the science of climate change, and we are on track to exceed our greenhouse gas emissions intensity target of a 24 per cent reduction between 2008 and 2020," said the spokesperson.
We are supportive of parts of the proposed resolution, but we do not believe that the resolution is required to achieve these aims.
"We believe that membership of industry associations is an opportunity for us to better understand a diverse range of external views, share best practice and contribute our perspectives and experience."
Though the Church of England Pensions Board and the South Yorkshire Pension Fund have both voted against the company accounts, full results of the AGM will not be announced until after Rio Tinto's Australian branch has held its meeting in May.