Activist investors: helping or harming?

Engineer turned activist investor Mark van Baal argues activist investors can help major oil and gas companies to make sustainable changes

by Éilis Cronin

From Greta Thurnberg to Extinction Rebellion, there are a number of pressure groups that target both big businesses and individuals alike to take drastic action against climate change. But for Mark van Baal, founder of international pressure group Follow This, the solution to climate change lies directly with the major players in the oil and gas industry.

After watching the film An Inconvenient Truth about former US vice president Al Gore’s campaign to educate people about global warming, he worked as a journalist writing about fossil fuels, renewable energy and climate change, and realised that these companies have the “brains and the billions” to help the cause - and uphold the terms of the Paris Agreement to help stop the global temperature rising above two degrees.

Shifting investments

“The only entity that these companies have to listen to is not consumers, not even the government, but their shareholders. So I started a group of activist shareholders in the industry and started with the company closest to home. I live in Amsterdam and the headquarters of Shell are in The Hague. I started gathering shareholders who believe they can help Big Oil change course to shift investments from fossil fuels to renewables,” he told an audience at MT’s Going for Growth Investment conference. 

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