Standard Bank in the Cape Town central business district. Image: IOL
Standard Bank in the Cape Town central business district. Image: IOL

Standard Bank investors urged to oust directors on climate fears

By Antony Sguazzin Time of article published Jun 8, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Shareholder and environmental activists from around the world have written to investors of Africa’s biggest bank by assets, Standard Bank Group Ltd., asking that they vote against the re-election of seven non-executive directors with ties to fossil-fuel companies.

The letter, prepared by Cape Town-based Just Share and co-signed by 14 other groups, including BankTrack of the Netherlands and France’s Reclaim Finance, comes as South African banks face increasing pressure to follow international trends and take more action on climate-related issues.

“The re-election of Standard Bank’s climate-conflicted board members will entrench a high tolerance for exposure to the fossil-fuel industry for years to come,” the letter reads. “We therefore call on you, as a responsible investor, to vote against the re-election of these directors at Standard Bank’s upcoming annual general meeting.”

At recent shareholder meetings of Standard Bank’s Johannesburg-based rivals Nedbank Group Ltd. and Absa Group Ltd. climate-related resolutions were passed. While Standard Bank last year became the first South African lender to table shareholder-proposed resolutions on climate matters, it declined to consider one this year on its oil and gas financing activities.

The directors objected to by the groups are:

  • Gesina Kennealy, who also serves as a non-executive director at oil and chemicals company Sasol Ltd.
  • Nomgando Matyumza, who is a non-executive director at Sasol
  • Priscillah Mabelane, who in September is set to join Sasol as executive vice president of its energy business. She also serves on the board of Shell and BP South African Petroleum Refineries Pty Ltd., and is deputy chairwoman of the South African Petroleum Industry Association Board of Governors. Until June 1, she was chief executive officer of BP Southern Africa Pty Ltd.
  • Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, lead director at coal company Exxaro Resources Ltd.
  • Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, CEO of Ichor Coal NV
  • Jacko Maree, Standard Bank’s deputy chairman, serves as a non-executive director at Phembani Group, which has investments in coal companies
  • Lubin Wang, who represents Standard Bank’s biggest shareholder, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., which finances fossil fuel projects
  • Together, the directors represent about two-fifths of Standard Bank’s board. The lender’s AGM will be held on June 26.

Other organizations that signed the letter are based in countries including Poland, Uganda, Australia and the U.S.

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