Decisions about membership of industry associations are entirely based on our business needs,” a spokeswoman for the energy company said.
JB Hi-Fi declined to comment.
A BCA spokesman said the group’s membership would vary from year to year.“In any given year the Business Council wins some members and loses some, and that is a reflection of each individual company’s circumstances,” the spokesman said.
“A decade ago the membership was in the low 100s and since then it’s been at around 130 with a record high of 137 in 2016.”
The BCA’s membership is made of chief executives of some of the biggest companies in Australia, including the major banks, Wesfarmers, BHP, Rio Tinto, Qantas and McDonald’s.
Earlier this week, the Herald and Age’s CBD column revealed QBE and News Corporation had also left the BCA recently. Medibank Private last month said it had quit the peak body, also citing costs.
The activities of lobby groups, including others such as the Minerals Council, are a key focus for the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR). The activist shareholder group is pressuring companies over their membership of peak bodies that it says have undermined action on climate change.
However, none of the companies that have left the BCA recently have said publicly if this pressure influenced their decision.
Last week ANZ Bank and National Australia Bank told investors the ACCR had proposed resolutions requiring a shareholder vote on the company suspending its membership of industry associations that were engaged in lobbying that was inconsistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
At BHP’s annual general meeting in London last week, 22 per cent of shareholders supported a resolution calling for the company to suspend membership of lobby groups including the BCA, alongside the Minerals Council of Australia and Coal21.
The ACCR attempted to lodge a similar resolution at the annual meeting of Santos this year, but the motion was not put to the meeting because the company said it didn’t meet the necessary legal requirements.
Westpac and Telstra, which have also been targeted by the ACCR on the issue, have both conducted reviews of their industry association memberships.
National Australia Bank last year said it would look into “material misalignments” in its membership of lobby groups, though it has remained a member of the BCA.
On Tuesday a NAB spokeswoman said: “Industry bodies continue to have our engagement. During a time when Australia faces social and economic challenges, NAB’s participation in industry associations allows us to contribute to discussions about progress and change.”
One of the country’s biggest investors, Australian Super, last month indicated it had engaged with BHP over its membership of lobby groups.
Australian Super’s Director, ESG & Stewardship, Andrew Gray, said at the time the fund had spoken with BHP about its membership of the Minerals Council of Australia, and it wanted to make sure the company’s membership of peak bodies was aligned with the Paris agreement on climate change. “It’s an issue that we are monitoring,” Mr Gray said last month. “We’ve had some recent engagement with BHP.”
Clancy Yeates is a business reporter.
Kylar Loussikian is The Sydney Morning Herald’s CBD columnist.
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