Toyota shareholders request it disclose climate lobbying efforts, fear it’s missing out on EV profits

Three EU based asset management companies holding millions in stake in Toyota Motor have submitted a shareholder request that the Japanese automaker provide a comprehensive, annual review of its climate-related lobbying efforts. Never one to miss an opportunity to show cynicism toward a steadfast BEV future, Toyota has urged his other shareholders to vote against the proposal.

Even as Toyota softens at the idea of BEVs as the vehicle of the future new leadership, its sloth-like approach to the transition remains a blemish many have not forgotten, including the automaker’s own shareholders.

There is no shortage of news coverage detailing Toyota’s love affair with hybrid vehicles – the Prius did help propel the automaker to superstardom after all. As nearly all other legacy automakers continue to set timelines and expiries on combustion vehicles, Toyota has had a death grip on its bread and butter for quite sometime, and has lobbied against climate change policy to ensure drivers can continue to huff emissions fumes.

That being said, Toyota has turned a new page in its global market strategy, recently appointing Lexus chief branding officer Koji Sato as Toyota’s new global CEO. Sato brings a refreshing outlook on the future of electrification compared to his predecessor, as the company finally admitted “the timing is right” for EVs.

Sato has his work cut out for him, as he has already outlined a roadmap for 10 new BEVs and a bespoke platform, while simultaneously stumbling right back into the company’s “multi-pathway approach” that still includes fuel cell vehicles and of course, hybrids.

Meanwhile, climate organizations have taken notice of the change at the helm and have seized the opportunity to publicly demand the new Toyota chief phase out fossil fuels more quickly.

Now, Toyota’s own shareholders are concerned about the automaker’s lackluster approach to BEVs as well and have requested to learn the efforts Toyota is taking toward lobbying in favor of the environment.

Toyota urges shareholders to vote against lobbying details

Per Reuters, three European asset managers have submitted a shareholder proposal urging that Toyota Motor Corp disclose lobbying activities regarding climate change. The trio includes Danish pension fund AkademikerPension, Norway’s Storebrand Asset Management, and Dutch pension investment company APG Asset Management.

Combined, the asset companies account for about $400 million in Toyota shares, so they have a pretty loud voice in the room. The popular think tank InfluenceMap, has continually given Toyota low ratings for openly opposing policies that would mandate the phase-out of internal combustion engines.

Many other automakers, in the US and Europe especially, have committed to much more ambitious carbon neutrality timelines compared to Toyota, and green investors are starting to worry that the Japanese automaker may miss the zero-emissions boat that’s outlook looks quite lucrative. AkademikerPension’s chief investment officer Anders Schelde spoke:

We’re concerned that Toyota is missing out on profits from soaring EV sales, jeopardizing its valuable brand and cementing its global laggard status. We need concrete policy changes and a better annual review drawing on independent data to calm international investors.

The shareholder proposal requests Toyota deliver an annual review of its climate-related lobbying to truly substantiate whether such lobbying does in fact reduce risks for the company from climate change and aligns with its publicly announced goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The shareholders also seek assurances that Toyota’s lobbying efforts are in line with the Paris Agreement.

Naturally, Toyota has urged its other shareholders to vote against the proposal, which will now be on the docket during the company’s annual meeting in June. Toyota said it expects a five-fold increase in BEVs sales this business year, but we’d argue that’s not a massive feat when you only sell one model of which only a few hundred were delivered in 2022.

Even without the proposed resolution, Toyota’s board has already shared plans to improve its annual report that detail its public lobbying efforts on climate. This year’s report will include help from an “accredited third party” who will evaluate Toyota’s public work with associations in the climate and automotive industries.

Despite all of this, Toyota is still clinging to the argument that the world is not ready for battery electric vehicles and that hybrids and FCEVs will be crucial in bridging the gap. Is it 2018 again?