U.S. investors successfully demand RBC change how it reports on green,

Canada’s largest bank has reversed course on a policy to disclose how much it invests in green energy versus fossil fuel energy following demands from New York City’s large public pension funds, with environmental groups welcoming the move but pointing out it doesn’t actually reduce carbon emissions yet.

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is one of three financial giants in North America that will start to disclose the ratio of how much money they put into clean energy projects compared to how much they invest in fossil fuel extraction. JPMorgan Chase and Citi also made similar agreements. 

“Up until now, RBC had resisted calls to disclose that ratio clearly across all their lending and investments every year,” explained New York City Comptroller Brad Lander in an interview with CBC News. 

Multiple pension funds overseen by Lander had put forward shareholder motions to compel the financial institutions to take these steps. Prior to RBC’s annual general meeting, set for April 11, the bank’s board of directors had recommended shareholders vote against doing this.

A politician in a grey suit and blue tie sits facing the camera, with the flag of New York City behind him.
NYC Comptroller Brad Lander said making sure RBC is actually living up to its stated goal of going ‘net-zero’ by 2050 is the fiduciary duty of shareholders, such as the pension funds he represents. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Essentially, up until April 4, when a press release was issued, RBC’s public position was that it would not disclose green energy to fossil fuel investment ratios. Now that it has voluntarily agreed to do, RBC will not face a public vote of shareholders that could have forced the issue.

Agreement does not reduce emissions

“All they’re doing with this agreement is agreeing to show their work,” said Lander, pointing out that the agreement does not require RBC to reduce investing in projects that generate or increase carbon emissions, though the company has said previously that its lending practices will be “net-zero” by 2050.

“We think that’s financially prudent and critical [going net-zero]. Making sure they actually are doing it is a responsibility of shareholders and entirely consistent with our fiduciary duty,” said Lander, whose pension funds held $28.22 million US in RBC stock as of November 2022.

WATCH | Candians calling out pension funds for continuing to invest in fossil fuel sector: 

Call for pension funds to stop investing in fossil fuels

Climate change concerns are important to many Candians but some are calling out pension funds for continuing to invest in the fossil fuels sector.

It’s not unusual for large, institutional investors such as pension funds to take a more influential role in corporate environmental policies, according to Sebastian Betermier, an associate professor of finance at McGill University in Montreal and executive director of the International Centre for Pension Management.

“What we’re looking at here is not a one off,” said Betermier, who added that this type of investor activism is happening around the world — and often in ways that are…

Read More: U.S. investors successfully demand RBC change how it reports on green,

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