There was quite a showdown at Standard Bank’s annual general meeting (AGM) last week. Following on from last year’s landmark meeting, where shareholder activism resulted in the bank acceding to demands that it develop a policy on coal-based lending, 2020’s AGM raised some uncomfortable questions about conflicts of interest among board members.

Such concerns centred on climate risk after it emerged that seven of the bank’s 18 standing board members have ties to fossil fuel companies. Five of them were up for re-election, with three of them in the pay of Sasol, a company that commissioned a private legal opinion in 2018 negating the rights of shareholders to vote on climate change issues...

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