Volkswagen AG was sued by institutional investors in Germany concerned that despite making public commitments to fighting climate change, the carmaker may be privately lobbying against its environmental ambitions.
A group of Swedish public pension funds, Danish AkademikerPension and the Church of England Pensions Board filed the suit at a German court seeking to make VW include an item about their lobbying activities to the agenda of its shareholder meeting. If successful, the motion would alter VW’s charter to allow the disclosure, ClientEarth, a campaign and legal organization supporting the case, said in a statement.
The investors “are concerned that while the auto giant is publicly championing the green transition, it may be undertaking lobbying activities that run c ounter to its stated climate ambitions,” ClientEarth said. “This potential contradiction exposes the company to reputational and operational damage and puts the security of their investments in question.”
Volkswagen said the motion the plaintiffs are proposing is inadmissible, because it would encroach on the management board’s powers and shareholders couldn’t legally adopt it even if they wanted. The company nevertheless shares the view that climate protection deserves greater prominence in reporting and is currently considering several approaches to this, it said.
The company already reports on its public affairs activities on a voluntary basis and climate-related issues are also part of various of its disclosures, Volkswagen said. All activities serve to support its strategic goals and a key part of that is the support for the Paris Climate Agreement and the European Green Deal, according to the company.
The investors have asked VW about the lobbying issue for several years but the firm refused to hand over the information, according to ClientEarth. VW earlier this year rejected their proposal to add the motion to the meeting agenda.