BP AGM, 13 April 2000
Speech to move resolution 12 by Matthew Spencer, Greenpeace UK.
1. Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen. My name is Matthew Spencer. I am a shareholder, but I want to build on the theme of choice from another perspective. Simon has explained what choices Resolution 12 presents from the perspective of a professional investor. I want to give you the perspective of a consumer of BP's oil.
2.You may be surprised but I'm not going to spend much time talking to you as a representative of the coalition of environment & wildlife groups here today that support this resolution. There are certain issues that are not in dispute - we all know that arctic wildlife - polar bears and caribou- do not have a choice about where they live. As climate change tears at the fabric of Arctic ecosystems their survival depends on the choices that investors and consumers make. The choices that we have here today.
3. I am a customer of BP like all of you. Contrary to common perception the millions of supporters of Greenpeace and other environment & wildlife groups know that we can't live without oil today. It's about whether we are doing today what is necessary to give us an alternative tomorrow.
4. We want a choice. This company has decided that it wants to be distinctive on the environment, it tells us as consumers that it is the greenest choice, light-years ahead of the rednecks at Exxon. The question we have is how far does our commitment to green extend beyond the colour of our petrol stations?
5. I want to know that BP is serious about giving me alternatives to fossil fuels. That BP can offer me cheap solar power. I want to know if BP will bow to public opinion believes that there are certain parts of our world, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, that should be permanently off- limits to oil exploration.
5. The choice that resolution 12 embodies for customers like me is stark. It's between trusting that BP is doing all that it can to provide us with choice, between BP building its brand as being different from Exxon in actions as well as words, or dashing our hopes and expectations, losing our trust & ultimately losing our custom. I ask you all to consider : What will customers think when they know that BP is prepared to be the first company to drill in the arctic ocean and the arctic refuge? So fellow shareholders I urge you to reflect on the importance of BP's reputation with its customers.
6. Directors have shown great vision in putting this company centre stage on environment issues - saying to customers we want to be different. We're now at the crossroads. BP either follows through on its green commitments with a real change in behaviour, and gets the rewards that will come with that, or it faces a reputation meltdown. I urge you to show that as shareholders we can be as bold on investment as the directors were in vision.
7. The choice is ours - to stop new arctic oil exploration and to make this company a definitive leader in renewable energy markets, or to run the gauntlet of global public opinion. It's the choice between being part of a sustainable energy company of the 21st century and a fossil fuel giant of the last. Fellow shareholders, the choice is ours.
8. I want to finish by making an offer to the board. It might be tempting for you to think that your job is to ride out this particular storm. To dismiss our resolution as an irrelevance, confident that you are guaranteed the block- vote of the large City investors. I urge you not to do this. The breadth of support we have for this resolution is unprecedented - it ranges from individual British shareholders holding small amounts of stock as a nest egg, to managers of large private investment funds in the US and the UK. And it's clear that this issue will not go away.
9. As supporters of this resolution we are not hostile to your management - take this as a forthright but friendly early warning. A warning of trouble ahead. Because as long as the contradictions remain between company positioning on the environment and our actions on oil exploration, the company will face problems. The consequences will come back to haunt you and to haunt us as investors.
10. I understand that you are unsure about whether there is shareholder confidence to allow you to make the transition away from oil exploration and towards renewable energy. My suggestion to you is therefore the following: Come back to us next year with different options for our level of investment in renewable energy and oil exploration. Different levels of capital allocation for shareholders to choose from. I think it is fair to say that even shareholders who don't support resolution 12 would welcome that. That way you can gauge shareholder confidence in a transition to renewable energy. That way we will not be forced to keep coming back with our own resolutions.
11. Shareholders deserve the right to choose. We hope that you will give us that option. The question for the board is will you give us that choice?