29 October 2019
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank enjoys a lot of kudos for being one of Australia’s medium-sized banks that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels. Thousands of Australians have moved to Bendigo Bank as a result of its position on our banks comparison table.
But at the bank’s annual general meeting held today in Bendigo, the company’s leadership cast doubts over its own ability to understand and manage climate risk.
At last year’s AGM, Chairman Robert Johanson evaded the question of whether Bendigo Bank formally supported the Paris Agreement’s climate goals. This year he was given another chance. Sadly and disturbingly, both he and incoming Chairman Jacquie Hey danced around the question for the second year running before promptly cutting off the questioner.
As a result of this extremely disappointing response, Market Forces has added a line to the position statement of Bendigo Bank on our comparison table, referring to the fact that it has been asked on two occasions whether it supports the Paris Agreement and has evaded the question on both occasions.
It’s true that Bendigo is one of the many banks without a recent record of lending to the fossil fuel industry, but when even the big four banks can go so far as to publicly support the Paris Agreement climate goals, current and prospective customers need to be aware of this significant failure of Bendigo Bank to do the bare minimum on this point.
After cutting the shareholder off, Mr Johanson was later asked a second question about whether the bank had conducted scenario analysis on the impacts of climate change on the agricultural sector.
Johanson’s curt response was to say the bank has done that work, it isn’t public and then handballed the shareholder to another member of the bank’s staff.
Given Bendigo Bank’s significant exposure to the agricultural sector, and that its annual report recognises climate change as a material business risk, the bank’s failure to publish this information is contrary to the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
Shareholders should be concerned about the lack of care and attention evidently being paid to risks that other banks and insurers are starting to see having major impacts on their bottom lines.