Update: Investors join call for Credit Suisse to cut fossil fuels

Coalition is calling on the bank to improve climate risk disclosures and bring fossil fuel policies in line with leading practices

Legal and General Investment Management and Aviva Investors have joined a group of Credit Suisse investors supporting a shareholder resolution on the bank’s climate strategy.

There are now 31 investors with combined assets under management of more than $5trn backing the proposal, up from the coalition of 11 managing $2.4trn when the resolution was filed in March.

The resolution urges Credit Suisse, Europe’s top financier of coal projects, to share long- and short-term targets to reduce its fossil fuel exposure in line with the timeframe of the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. 

Responsible investment NGO ShareAction and the Ethos Foundation teamed up to coordinate the shareholder coalition, which includes Amundi, the pension fund of Zurich city, and the Swiss Federal Pension Fund.

The group is calling on Credit Suisse to improve its climate risk disclosures and bring its coal, oil and gas policies in line with leading practice in the sector. ShareAction noted the bank’s policies such as only restricting fossil fuel finance linked to projects in the Arctic region means it lags behind competitors on climate.

The NGO also cited Credit Suisse’s coal policy specifically, which has the option of funding coal companies for “energy transition” purposes. ShareAction said the bank has not provided a clear definition of what this means in practice and further stated Credit Suisse has exempted its asset management arm from following the core principles of the policy.

For climate and reputation

Noting a series of scandals and controversial deals over the past few years, a statement from ShareAction referred to Credit Suisse recently being involved in a deal to lend €1bn to EPH, whose subsidiary EPPE is heavily exposed to coal and continues to acquire new coal assets. It also referred to a whistleblower leak in February revealing possible criminal ties to the bank’s accounts.

Jeanne Martin, senior campaign manager at ShareAction, encouraged the bank to do the best thing for the planet and for the bank’s reputation: “The message from investors is clear: Credit Suisse must urgently back its long-term net-zero ambition with robust fossil fuel disclosures, policies, and targets.

“Last week, the IPCC issued its bleakest warning yet on the impacts of climate breakdown, highlighting fossil fuels as a key contributing factor. Yet Credit Suisse continues to heavily finance the oil and gas industry, usually with no strings attached. With a damaged reputation to restore, we call on Credit Suisse to use this resolution as an opportunity to start afresh and show leadership on climate change.” 

A Credit Suisse spokesman said in a statement the bank has committed to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and has set interim science-based goals for 2030.

“Importantly, our sustainability approach includes sector-specific climate strategies. As a high-carbon emitter, the oil, gas and coal sector has been prioritized as an area where we are committed to set science-based goals that help us to monitor the reduction of both emissions and lending exposure. This extends to supporting our clients through application of client energy transition frameworks, as we recognize the role we play in engaging our clients to participate in the low-carbon transition.

“Engagement with our shareholders is an essential part of our stakeholder approach and we acknowledge the proposal brought by ShareAction and Ethos Foundation on behalf of the represented shareholders, with whom we broadly consult and engage in dialogue,” he said.