Tsunami of motions hits Japan’s financial powerhouses in net zero proxy push
For Japan's largest banks there is no escaping: they all face a series of net zero-related shareholder resolutions this year
A green shareholder wind is currently blowing through Japan, after China the largest market in Asia and one of the region's undisputed financial hubs.
For the country's largest banks there is no escaping: all large banks face a range of net zero-related shareholder motions, calling the financial institutions to roll issue, disclose or improve their transition plans.
Moreover, several other motions urge multiple banks to align their lending operations and investment strategies with the Paris agreement.
Green wave in Tokyo
Following the range of motions in Japan, coverage of the banks' proxy season is dominated by the resolutions. And for good reason.
Mizuho Financial Group has been hit with several shareholder motions, as well as Sumitomo Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.
The driving force behind the net zero resolutions is a range of environmental NGOs, most notably the Japanese Kiko Network and Australia-based Market Forces.
They are involved with practically every banking motion and are reportedly also the brainchild of multiple motions targeting Japan's biggest energy companies, Chubu Electric Power, Tokyo Electric Power Company and Mitsubishi Corporation.
With regards to the energy firms, multiple motions urge them to disclose what percentage of their capital expenditure is in line with 2050 net zero goals.
Japanese corporates are gradually starting to get used to activist shareholders and ESG-related motions.
While this in the past was the exclusive domain of NGOs, in recent years banks and other private sector players have either filed or come out to support motions, including Man Group and HSBC.
While still a relatively new trend, with the first motion only filed three years ago (which gained about a third of the votes), last year a range of banks and corporates were hit by green shareholder demands.
The most notable one in 2022 was arguably a quarter of shareholders at Sumitomo Mitsui supporting a motion that urged the financial firm to disclose its short and medium-term greenhouse gas emission goals, and whether they were aligned with the UN Paris Agreement.