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We’re taking the Commonwealth Bank to court

By October 14, 2014 March 13th, 2018 Cases, Climate and Finance

Taking on a powerful organisation like the Commonwealth Bank is not something to do lightly, but this case has the potential to provide a powerful tool for change in Australia.

Taking on a powerful organisation like the Commonwealth Bank is not something to do lightly, but this case has the potential to provide a powerful tool for change in Australia.

Corporations are among the most powerful institutions in the world, and their power is growing. 

Voters can hold governments to account, but there are only limited ways that shareholders can hold corporations to account. But if we win this case, it will provide shareholders with an important tool to create a better world.

Our client, the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, has tried to put a shareholder resolution to the AGM of Commonwealth Bank, asking it to report on the amount of climate change causing carbon pollution it finances.

The bank believes Australian law doesn’t require them to do this – but we think they’re wrong.

If we win this case, it will set a precedent that will apply to future AGMs of Australian companies.

Corporate democracy is an important part of responsible corporate governance in most developed countries. Australia is far behind the rest of the world in recognising shareholder rights.

The US, for example, has a strong culture of shareholder engagement, and this has long been an effective way for concerned shareholders to change the way a company does business.

Resolutions on issues from climate change to child sex trafficking have been considered by company general meetings in the US. Even when a majority of shareholders do not support the particular resolutions, companies will often change their practices in response to the continued public pressure brought about by the shareholder resolutions.

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