The bank said its recommendation was against the resolution, but shareholder activists, including Theo Botha, Raith Foundation and non-profit organisation Just Share, swayed the outcome with 55.09 percent of the vote.
Just Share chief executive Tracey Davies said the resolution represented a breakthrough, as more showed that they were investors concerned about the impact of climate change than thought.
Davies said the resolution would be proposed to other South African groups where there were perceived environmental risk.
“In a global context, the first time that these resolutions are proposed at international companies, it seldom gets more than a 10 percent support vote,” said Davies.
CAPE TOWN – Standard Bank, which is Africa’s biggest lender by value, had come under increasing pressure from environmental and climate change lobby groups to shun coal-heavy projects and businesses.
In January, Nedbank announced that it was withdrawing all funding for new coal-fired independent power producers, while Firstrand withdrew its funding plans for the proposed 557MW Thabametsi coal-fired independently owned power plant in February.
Mergence Investment Managers, which also voted for the resolution, had said the bank’s financing choices could play a major role in promoting carbon reduction, as climate change poses a grave threat to our way of life and the long-term sustainability of many businesses.
“Banks’ shareholders should have access to information on the climate-change impact of their funding decisions,” the asset manager wrote.
Standard Bank already revised its policy on funding new coal plants in July 2018, by saying it would only support higher efficiency, lower-emission coal-fired power plants, and carbon capture and storage technologies.
“If a proposed development does not meet these parameters, Standard Bank will not provide finance.”
The bank’s corporate and investment banking chief executive Kenny Fihlan said that since 2012, 86 percent of all energy funding conducted by them had been in green energy or renewables, totalling more than $2 billion (R29.47bn).
Senior climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace Africa Melita Steele said climate change impacted South Africa two times worse than the global average. Steel said the only way to reduce emissions in South Africa was for all stakeholders to embrace a renewable energy revolution and lead the way towards a just transition away from coal. She said Greenpeace wanted to encourage other lenders to follow suit.
“We welcome the moves that South African banks are making away from coal, and call on those banks that are lagging behind to take much more urgent action to step away from financing coal in all its forms, and to increase their transparency in terms of their exposure to risk due to existing funding of coal,” Steele said. “We definitely need bigger and bolder action to reduce financing for coal.”