How climate intrapreneurs can leverage the Woodside vote to create change

Shareholder activism led to Woodside's flimsy climate plan being rejected. At this historic moment, the question is: where to from here for employees who want to shift the dial on corporate climate action?

Sarah Smith
May 2, 2024
3 min read
Woodside shareholder climate rejection

Last week Woodside’s shareholders roundly rejected the oil and gas company’s green-washed climate transition plan at their AGM in Perth. The biggest vote of its kind in history, it highlights just how powerful shareholder activism is becoming in demanding corporate climate action. 

“This is really a pivotal moment for Woodside, it must respond in a material way,” Alex Hillman, former Woodside employee and Lead Analyst at The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, tells WorkforClimate. “More 'listening' to investors without any notable change in strategy has become untenable.”

Read about how Alex Hillman left Woodside to work in sustainability

It’s clear that business as usual is no longer an option for the fossil fuel industry, so what does this mean for climate intrapreneurs? First, we can’t miss this moment. This vote represents a changing of the guard and quashing of the status quote. We need to harness the Woodside decision to make change in our own workplaces. So, how exactly can you do that?

Leverage Woodside and corporate campaigns to build a climate business case

Headlines about Woodside are everywhere right now, which means your boss has seen them too. So this is the perfect time to educate yourself on corporate climate campaigns – like Woodside, but also the current case building against Lululemon and others – to bring them sharply into focus with your employer. 

“More 'listening' to investors without any notable change in strategy has become untenable.” – Alex Hillman, The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility

“Leverage the energy of campaigns as case studies for building climate business cases in your company,” says Lucy Piper, Director of WorkforClimate. If you educate yourself and stay across what Market Forces, ACCR and Greenpeace are doing, you can use them in your work as a climate intrapreneur. “For example,” says Lucy, “if you’re putting together a business plan to support climate action, pointing to these cases allows you to talk to the reputational risk of inaction. Of what damage can come from having a climate action plan that is just for show.”

Push for a review of your company’s own Climate Action Plan

The Woodside vote was a rejection of a Climate Action Plan that was paper thin. Increasingly, this is something we are seeing across all industries: companies making pledges or touting climate plans but not making tangible steps to achieve them. “Just because a company has a climate plan doesn't mean they're taking action at the level that's required to mitigate the impacts that they're creating in the world,” says Lucy. “So do what these shareholders were doing and take a look at your company’s climate commitments and see how they do or don’t stack up.” 

Know that “pumping the brakes” is part of the solution

Since the Woodside result, there has been some commentary around the real impact of these kinds of campaigns. It’s important for climate intrapreneurs to remember that every action matters in the path towards climate security. That is, both the big and small picture counts here. 

One way to think about it is like having two feet on the pedals at once. “On the one hand, we need to accelerate climate solutions – we need clean energy solutions and a focus on technology and investment,” says Lucy. “But even if we have that accelerator fully pushed down, if we don’t pump the brakes on things like corporate overreach, corporate power, and corporate emissions going up unchecked, it doesn’t matter how much we accelerate solutions. We will not achieve what we’re trying to do.” 

This is why the Woodside vote matters. And why we need to use this huge moment to see how we can pump the brakes in our own workplaces to ensure corporate accountability. 

Looking to join a community of employee changemakers pushing for corporate climate action? Join the WorkforClimate Learning Community.

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