Many say that the rainy season in June makes them sleepy. But in the corporate calendar, June is no time to relax because it’s when over 2,000 Japanese listed firms host their annual general meeting (AGM). What’s made the month particularly stormy of late is the rising number of shareholder resolutions put to management. Climate issues feature prominently among them.
This AGM season saw a record 90 shareholder resolutions filed, with more than 10% climate related. Activists demanded changes to company charters to reflect climate ambitions aligned with the Paris Agreement goals. There were calls for an exit from financing or investing in coal; and there were several demands for more disclosure.
Japan’s original climate activist shareholders were non-profit organizations or their staff. In recent years, however, European institutional investors have joined the movement, supporting and sometimes even initiating shareholder demands.
The campaigns generally receive strong media coverage, partly helped by the fact that most of the resolutions are tabled against blue chip companies and some of Japan’s most famous brands. This year, even Toyota Motor came under the spotlight. But how much impact are climate activists having on corporate decisions in Japan?