Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Congratulations Ian Dunlop

Unfortunately few individuals have the courage of their convictions when it comes to acting ethically in response to human-induced climate change.  Ian Dunlop is a notable exception. He is to be congratulated for taking on mining heavy-weight BHP/BHP-Billiton. In the process he has demonstrated how unethical major institutional investors still are in managing their portfolios and how much into groupthink the big miners are. Dunlop’s platform for nomination to the BHP board identified climate change as the single greatest strategic risk faced by BHP. In making his unsuccesful bid for election he said:

"The future prosperity of BHP Billiton is of great importance, both in Australia and globally,” ......"Climate change poses a major strategic risk to that prosperity, and to shareholder value that is a risk which has the ability to fundamentally alter the direction of the company, or indeed to destroy it.  "In common with the boards of most major global corporations, I believe the board has fallen into the trap of 'groupthink' in failing to grasp the enormity of the challenge that climate change poses to the business,”

Importantlty Ian has gained significant coverage in the business sections of the press.  This exposure is welcome; it enables greater awareness of major systemic flaws in how we think about and respond to future climate change in terms of governance. We have known for a long time that big emitters have brought immense pressure to bear on governments and have at times effectively run government policy.  But companies like BHP are in the top 20 of global carbon emitters - and are thus much more significant than most nation states.  Yet our governance regimes and the social licence to operate for companies like BHP are not yet able to effectively hold them to account. Recent shifts in government policy in Australia do not help.

Ian Dunlop is a former international oil, gas and coal industry executive. He chaired the Australian Coal Association in 1987-88, chaired the Australian Greenhouse Office Experts Group on Emissions Trading from 1998-2000 and was CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors from 1997-2001. Ian is a major contributor to CPD (Centre for Policy Development).

PS If you think I am a little over the top with some of the arguments I am making read this - 'coal the new tobacco'!

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