NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 20:21
Actress Carice van Houten will ask the top of Rabobank tonight for a more ambitious climate policy. Together with eighty other Milieudefensie volunteers, she bought a certificate from the bank and with it the right to attend the meeting and ask a question. Milieudefensie activists have already campaigned in this way during shareholder meetings of Ahold, Unilever and ING, among others.
More and more celebrities are joining the climate movement. Earlier you saw, for example, actress Katja Herbers, criminal lawyer Bénédicte Ficq and singer Merol in actions by Extinction Rebellion, such as the occupation of the A12. They are welcomed with open arms by the movement, which is happy with all the attention the prominent people are generating.
Van Houten became a climate activist after attending a lecture by the protest group. According to her and Milieudefensie, Rabobank is not doing enough to limit global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees, as agreed in the Paris climate agreement. This mainly concerns the emissions of Rabobank’s customers. Among other things, the activists want Rabobank to stop providing loans to intensive livestock farmers.
The question that Van Houten and the other activists are asking this evening has been discussed well in advance: “Is Rabobank going to emit 45 percent less CO2 in the entire chain in 2030 compared to 2019?”
If the top no longer agrees, Milieudefensie says to go to court. In that case, the answers given by the top executives can serve as ‘proof that the company does not want to do anything about dangerous climate change’. The activists Shell were previously convicted of insufficient climate ambition.
Van Houten also hopes to be able to convey a personal message to the Rabobank directors:
‘I haven’t been able to sleep for five days, how do you reach someone who really has influence?’
According to Rabobank, the meeting is not the right place for this action. “It’s not like a general meeting of shareholders,” they write in a response on their site. They point out that the evening is organized by a foundation that is separate from Rabobank and that the financial director will only be present for a brief explanation of last year’s policy. “Participation is not an issue at this meeting, it is an informative get-together.” Rabobank also disagrees with Milieudefensie in terms of content.
Rabobank has invited Van Houten and Milieudefensie for coffee and a conversation, but the environmental organization does not respond. “We’ve had conversations before and nothing came of it. You can’t keep drinking coffee forever,” says spokesman Peer de Rijk.
It is a pity that chairman of the board Stefaan Decraene will not be there, says De Rijk, but it does not stop them. “As a cooperative bank, Rabobank has no shareholders, so this is the only way to hold Rabotop publicly accountable.”
Happy with support
Buying shares (or, in the case of Rabobank, certificates) to gain a say is a method that climate activists at home and abroad are increasingly using to put pressure on companies to tighten up their climate goals. Mark van Baal of Follow This has been trying for years to make large oil companies greener ‘from the inside’ by submitting climate resolutions to shareholders’ meetings.
He is pleased with the support of well-known Dutch people such as Van Houten. “Companies often think mainly of the interests of the shareholders and the company itself. The general public is also often completely unaware of the importance of the role of financial institutions in the energy transition. A well-known name can help enormously with that.”
Nevertheless, Van Houten receives a lot of criticism for the fact that she is now committed to the climate. She hears a lot of accusations that she is hypocritical in particular. She has flown a lot for her work and will do so in the future, she says. “I’ve never been an activist either. I want people to like me. Until a few months ago I felt and saw how serious the matter is.”
Milieudefensie also points out that no one is without climate sin. Spokesman De Rijk: “Especially someone like Carice can show that it is never too late to take action.”