Salmon giant Tassal’s climate plan smells fishy

31 October 2018

Beleaguered salmon farming company Tassal, infamous for the ABC Four Corners ‘big fish’ report, was today questioned at its AGM on the business risks of global warming and whether it would join the 240 companies worldwide that have signed up to the Task Force for Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). Companies that adopt the TCFD principles agree to disclose the financial risks that climate change poses to their bottom line.

“Salmon farming obviously has a high degree of climate risk exposure, some of which Tassal has already identified. Given this, what steps has Tassal taken to adopt the TCFD principles and if not why not?” a shareholder asked today.

“First of all, your main point there. A high degree of risk. I’m a broad acre farmer with 3,000 acres north of here. I would classify the risk of climate change – droughts etc – far greater in my view [on the farm] than what I see down at Tassal. Tassal has far better practices of management than my farm. But I’ll hand that one over to Mark,” said chairman Allan McCallum, dodging the question by passing it off to CEO Mark Ryan.  

McCallum’s non-answer came the same day as the Full Bench of the Federal Court was hearing closing arguments to overturn approvals for Tassal’s controversial Okehampton Bay salmon farm. The farm sits a few kilometres from a site where nearly 50 years of CSIRO monitoring shows that the local water temperature is warming at almost three times the global average. The farm also experienced a mass mortality event last summer, with many fish dying due to factors exacerbated by heat stress. With a 70% chance of an El Nino this summer, conditions could prove even worse than last year.

CEO Mark Ryan claimed climate change is something Tassal does take into account. But when pressed by the shareholder on whether the company would sign up to the TCFD within the next financial year, he said no.  A position that puts them at odds with many other ASX top 200 companies.

No discussion of the Paris climate accord

Tassal’s climate change policy states that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and associated climate change risks need to be dealt with at both global and local levels. What Tassal doesn’t make clear is whether the board supports the Paris climate goal of keeping global warming to well below 2ºC.

“Does the board support this goal and agreement which has now been ratified by 179 countries?” asked a shareholder.

“We haven’t discussed the specific agreement,” admitted chairman McCallum. “We are monitoring and reporting our greenhouse gas emissions. As a board we haven’t sat down – we haven’t seen it our role to tick … or not tick the Paris agreement. Understanding the impacts – we are actively working on those issues.”

When viewed against Mr Ryan’s earlier statement that Tassal is aware of the TCFD and the Paris climate accord but doesn’t plan to act on either, it appears that Tassal’s leadership group is missing in action when it comes to meaningful action on climate change.

Take action

Our Investing in the Dark report shows Australia’s top 100 listed companies on the stock exchange are not taking climate risk seriously. Call on your superfund to enforce climate risk management.