Climate Activists Poised to See Big Gains in 2022

Investor activism both in and out of the boardroom is poised to reach new heights in 2022.

Last year, shareholder activists teamed up with environmental and socially-minded investors in record numbers. The most successful campaign was arguably hedge fund Engine No. 1’s push to add three climate-conscious directors to the board of fossil-fuel behemoth Exxon Mobil Corp. Other notable initiatives included investorDan Loeb’s attempt to break up Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Bluebell Capital Partners’s push for a management shakeup at GlaxoSmithKline Plc.

This year, the expectation is that activism will accelerate further, said Rob Du Boff, senior ESG analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. More than nine campaigns based on environmental or social issues are currently underway, impacting companies such as Unilever Plc and TotalEnergies SE.

The efforts are getting more aggressive with investors pressing big companies to do everything from reallocate capital and shrink carbon footprints to overhaul management teams. That’s a long way from two years ago, when investors were only requesting more detailed climate-related disclosures.

Last week, a majority of of Costco Wholesale Corp. shareholders backed a proposal calling on the giant retailer to set science-based emissions reduction targets across its business lines to ensure the company achieves net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.

Costco has been a laggard, according to Green Century Capital Management President Leslie Samuelrich, who said the vote demonstrates investors expect the company to “align with its peers by accelerating work to reduce the climate impact of its supply chains.” Green Century, which oversees about $1 billion in. assets, has a $5.9 million stake in Costco.