At the end of May 2018, Just Share began operating as an independent organisation after a short incubation period at the Centre for Environmental Rights. We had an ambitious vision: as South Africa’s first shareholder activism NGO, we wanted to change the landscape of corporate accountability, and help to shape an investment system which continuously challenges companies to be good corporate citizens, contributing to a just and inclusive society and an environment that is not harmful to health and wellbeing.
It has been a busy and interesting five years, and we have made important progress in several key areas:
- Just Share has attended 66 annual general meetings of 22 JSE-listed companies and asked their boards of directors over 190 questions about these companies’ management of climate risk, inequality, transformation, and governance issues. Our AGM Roundups detail our AGM activism and engagement.
- Just Share drafted and supported the filing of South Africa’s first shareholder resolution on climate risk, filed in 2019 at Standard Bank. The resolution requested the bank to adopt and disclose a policy on coal financing, and, despite management’s recommendation that shareholders vote against it, the resolution passed with 55% of shareholder support. This resolution is reported to be, globally, the only ESG-related resolution that has ever passed at a bank without support from management.
- Just Share has supported and/or co-filed a further ten shareholder resolutions at FirstRand Bank Limited, Exxaro Resources Limited, Investec Bank Limited, Sasol Limited, Standard Bank Group Limited and Thungela Resources Limited.
- We hosted our first Inequality Symposium in October 2022. Our work on inequality, including vertical and gender wage gap disclosure, is raising awareness in the corporate sector of the integral contribution of labour market inequality to South Africa’s extreme overall inequality. There are now at least nine JSE-listed companies that have disclosed some form of vertical wage gap and/or internal minimum wage.
- Through a combination of detailed analysis, engagement, public advocacy, and shareholder activism, we have pushed South Africa’s five biggest banks to:
- significantly improve their climate risk disclosure by reporting in terms of the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD); and
- publish fossil fuel financing policies which begin to limit (through exclusions and target-setting) exposure to fossil fuel lending (four of these five banks (Absa, FirstRand, Nedbank and Standard Bank) have committed not to fund new coal-fired power).
- Our work on corporate climate lobbying is raising awareness in South Africa of the little-understood role that fossil fuel companies and their industry associations play in delaying and weakening effective climate-related policy and regulation. In 2021, together with Aeon Investment Management, Just Share co-filed South Africa’s first shareholder resolution on corporate climate lobbying at Sasol. In 2023, we co-filed two more climate lobbying resolutions at Thungela and Exxaro, with Aeon and Fossil Free South Africa.
- Our detailed work analysing Sasol’s climate change “ambition, strategy and actions” has provided a useful basis for investors’ interactions with Sasol around its climate plans. While Sasol’s decarbonisation strategy is not nearly sufficiently robust, its acknowledgment that its business model is incompatible with a low-carbon economy, and its development of a transition plan, is largely the result of work by civil society to pressure it to come clean about its contribution to climate change and the significant climate transition risks it faces.
- Our advocacy and activism around electronic annual general meetings have contributed to considerable improvements in electronic AGM accessibility. The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) recently published a legal opinion which cited Just Share’s guide on Best Practices for South African virtual annual general meetings and confirmed that any AGM at which electronic participation results in the frustration of “meaningful and effective participation” will not constitute a valid AGM for the purposes of the Companies Act.
- In the last five years Just Share staff have published 50 opinion editorials in the local media, made 17 regulatory submissions in public participation processes related to proposed legislative and policy amendments, and written over 20 investor briefings providing analysis of corporate disclosures, climate transition strategies, fossil fuel financing policies, and remuneration reports.
We are grateful to all our funders for their continued support and guidance, in particular the RAITH Foundation, without which Just Share would not exist. As one of the few local philanthropic foundations dedicated to funding social justice NGOs, the RAITH Foundation plays a crucial role in both state and corporate accountability.
Thank you also to our dedicated board of directors, our many local and international civil society partners, the journalists who spend so much time understanding what we do and why, and to the many people we have engaged with in the corporate and financial sectors who are committed to building a just and sustainable future for South Africa.
Our work is only possible with the generous support of philanthropic funding and individual donations (which are tax-deductible). Please consider donating to help us keep working to build a more just, inclusive and sustainable economy.