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ARELJ Article- Activist Shareholders and Climate Change: Australian Developments

Dr Tim Bowley
BA (Juris), LLB (Hons), LLM, PhD. Member, Centre for Commercial Law and Regulatory Studies, Faculty of Law, Monash University

Shareholders are increasingly focused on how companies are addressing material environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. In practice, a significant amount of this activism focuses on a particular “E” issue: climate change. This article describes and explores climate change-related shareholder activism in relation to Australian publicly-traded companies. It reveals how this activism is undertaken by a variety of shareholder types who draw from a range of activist tactics. It also shows how this activism is becoming increasingly sophisticated and, in particular, is moving beyond attempts to highlight companies’ contribution to climate change to focus on holding companies and their management accountable for perceived inaction on climate change. Climate-related shareholder activism is underpinned by significant financial, regulatory and international factors and its significance is therefore unlikely to be short-lived. However, the article reveals that tensions are emerging that may disrupt climate-related shareholder activism’s momentum and make its ultimate trajectory uncertain. 

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