Church of England Joins Rio Tinto Resolution

Investors are calling on the company to disclose ties with mining industry bodies.

The Church of England Pensions Board has joined other major investors in Rio Tinto in filing a shareholder resolution calling on the mining company to fully disclose and review its relationships with industry bodies, such as the Minerals Council of Australia.

 The Church’s pension board maintains that industry bodies like Australia’s Minerals Council “block progress on Australian and global climate and energy frameworks,” the group said in a release.

“Rio Tinto has supported the Paris Agreement,” said Adam Matthews, head of engagement for the Church of England Pensions Board. “However, that position is undermined when industry associations and lobbying groups, financially supported by Rio Tinto, take contrary lobbying positions.”

Other investors taking part in the proposed resolution include Swedish pension fund AP7 and Australia’s Local Government Super. The resolution is being coordinated by the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR).

ACCR recently filed a similar shareholder resolution with Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, asking it to reconsider its membership with the Minerals Council of Australia. Although the motion didn’t pass, BHP reportedly agreed to a review of its industry associations, which led to the company announcing plans to leave the World Coal Association. It also said it would withdraw from the Minerals Council of Australia if it didn’t change the way it lobbied for coal.

“The activities of trade associations which block essential climate policy, funded in large part by major resources companies, is of increasing concern to investors globally,” said the ACCR. “Of particular concern is a misalignment between the top-line climate commitments of companies, and the relative positions of their trade groups. These discrepancies leave shareholders unclear as to the validity of corporate statements on climate.”

LGS said its research shows that Rio Tinto provides significant funding to industry groups “whose energy and climate change policy stance seems entirely contrary to Rio’s stated formal commitment to the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global temperature increases to well below 2°C.”

The Australian fund added that as a long-term shareholder in Rio Tinto, it wants to better understand the shareholder value it gets from the company funding third-party industry groups.

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