By Simon Jessop
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's biggest asset manager wants to remove the chairmen of the board at eight companies worldwide, which it says have failed to confront the threats posed by climate change.
Legal & General Investment Management, the fund arm of insurer Legal & General (LGEN.L), has been among the most vocal asset managers on the topic, recently writing to some of the world's top companies calling for more action.
On Monday, it said it would vote against the chairs of China Construction Bank <601939.SS>, Dominion Energy (D.N) and Japan Post Holdings <6178.T>, as well as Occidental Petroleum (OXY.N), Rosneft Oil (ROSN.MM) and Subaru <7270.T>. The other two companies on its list were Loblaw Companies (L.TO) and Sysco Corp (SYY.N).
As well as demanding the removal of the companies' chairmen, LGIM also said it would sell any shares of the eight companies held in its 5 billion pounds Future World Funds index funds range.
After spending a year engaging with 84 of the world's biggest firms over their climate strategies, LGIM, which manages nearly 1 trillion pounds in assets, said some were not doing enough to prepare for a low-carbon economy.
While some companies were "excelling", others were "failing to do the bare minimum", with a number not even responding to requests to engage, LGIM said.
"We're going to keep ratcheting up the minimum standards and our expectations from the companies; it's not a finished business," said Meryam Omi, head of sustainability and responsible investment strategy at LGIM.
FULL VOTING POWER
LGIM said it had already begun to use the full voting power of all of its shares to vote against the re-election of the chairmen of each of the eight companies at their annual meetings.
"We are doing this on behalf of all our clients in terms of voting... so the voice from LGIM to the company is one," Omi said.
The asset manager will, however, continue to invest in the companies across its other funds.
In response, Occidental Petroleum said: "We had positive engagements with our shareholders and other stakeholders while developing our 2018 Climate Report, and these engagements have continued to be valuable and positive after publishing it in March."
It said it continued to aim to be "a global leader in CO2 emission reductions through geologic sequestration" and had a long history of reporting its greenhouse gas emissions.
Loblaw said it believed LGIM was referring to a mid-May request for information about its environmental commitments to which it had yet to reply. The Canadian firm said it intended to do so, highlighting commitments including a detailed plan to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2030.
Sysco said: "We have a long standing commitment to energy and waste management and sustainable agriculture practices, with continual enhancements to the programs."
Emailed requests for comment to Dominion, Rosneft and Subaru were not immediately returned.
China Construction Bank and Japan Post Holdings could not be reached for comment outside of business hours.
(Additional reporting by Taiga Uranaka in Tokyo; Editing by Susan Fenton)