BHP Billiton to maintain membership in US Chamber of Commerce

BHP Billiton has announced that it will remain in the US Chamber of Commerce despite “material differences” between the Chamber of Commerce’s policy on climate change and BHP Billiton’s position.

BHP Billiton announced the results of its review of its memberships in industry bodies around the world.

“Following publication of the Review, BHP undertook a number of engagements with the secretariat of the Chamber,” BHP Billiton said in a statement. “While the material differences identified by the Review remain at this time, BHP derives a range of benefits from the broader activities of the Chamber, particularly its advocacy on economic issues such as free trade.

“On the basis of these broader benefits, and in light of the Chamber’s willingness to engage further on climate and energy issues through an invitation extended to BHP to join its Energy and Environment Committee, BHP has determined to remain a member of the Chamber.

“BHP will work with the Chamber and its wider membership on the direction of the Chamber’s climate and energy policy, by actively participating in the Chamber’s Energy and Environment Committee.

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) has expressed disappointment in for choosing to remain a member of the US Chamber of Commerce. Last year, ACCR engaged with BHP Billiton on the issue of its membership in lobby groups around the world, and gathered sufficient shareholder support to put a resolution to its 2017 AGM. BHP subsequently published a report outlining differences between BHP Billiton’s climate and energy policy and several lobby groups of which it has been members. As a result, BHP Billiton announced it would leave the World Coal Association at the end of March 2018, and that it would review its membership in MCA in 12 months if MCA continues to lobby for coal-fired power generation.

“It is a disappointing and wrong decision by them,” said Brynn O’Brien, executive director, ACCR. “The US Chamber of Commerce is known as the worst of the worst, rank client deniers, and they campaigned for the Trump Administration to leave the Paris Agreement, and we consider that it is not in shareholder interests, no matter how good they are at campaigning for free trade in the US, for BHP Billiton to be associated with and support an organisation with that stance.”

ACCR will continue to engage with BHP Billiton on the subject.

“BHP has indicated that their membership will remain under review, and we ill continue to provide BHP with information on the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Minerals Council on activities.”

ACCR is pushing ahead with its shareholder resolution on the same topic for the Rio Tinto AGM. More than a hundred individual shareholders and three global asset owners including Local Government Super (LGS) have co-filed a shareholder resolution calling on Rio Tinto to review and fully disclose its relationships with industry bodies including the Minerals Council of Australia.

“It is an area of increasing concern for investors, and we think that will be demonstrated through the Rio Tinto engagement and the vote on that in May in Australia and this is certainly an issue that isn’t going away,” O’Brien said.