Credit Suisse investor rebellion over climate action grows ahead of annual meeting

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  • Aviva Investors to back shareholder resolution
  • Calls for faster action to cut fossil fuel finance
  • Group now 31-strong, with combined $5 trln in assets

ZURICH, April 25 (Reuters) - A group of Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) investors pushing for faster climate action at the Swiss bank has more than doubled in size, raising pressure on its board ahead of its annual shareholder meeting on Friday.

Credit Suisse, along with other major banks, is under pressure from investors to stop financing fossil fuel development to limit climate change and to help businesses to shift away from a high-carbon economy.

Eleven Credit Suisse shareholders originally filed a resolution in March urging the bank to cut exposure to fossil fuel assets. This group, with a collective $2.4 trillion in assets, included Europe's biggest asset manager, Amundi (AMUN.PA). read more

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Credit Suisse moved to set new targets to reduce emissions connected to its loan book, but the investors said this did not go far enough. read more

Now, other shareholders have joined the group planning to back the climate resolution, including Legal & General Investment Management (LGEN.L) and Aviva Investors (AV.L). There are now 31 investors, with combined assets under management of more than $5 trillion, which have pre-declared their support.

Other backers include Switzerland's largest pension fund BVK, Danish investor Sparinvest, Swedish insurer Folksam, sustainable investor Grünfin and UK public pension investors Northern LGPS and Border to Coast Pensions Partnership.

The need for quicker action to rein in emissions has been rammed home by U.N. climate scientists who said the window for action to forestall the worst effects of global warming was rapidly closing. read more

"Given the systemic risk posed by climate change, it's essential that businesses such as Credit Suisse take swift action to ensure they are part of the solution," said Jane Firth, head of responsible investment at Border to Coast.

"By supporting this shareholder resolution, we hope to see Credit Suisse take tangible steps to ensure its disclosures and targets cover all capital market activity, ensuring it is on a timeline consistent with the Paris agreement."

The resolution, coordinated by responsible investment NGO ShareAction and the Ethos Foundation, with the support of the Swiss Association for Responsible Investments, will be the first such shareholder resolution to be put to a Swiss company.

"We applaud the investors that have today pre-declared their support for the shareholder-led resolution on climate risk at Credit Suisse," said Jeanne Martin, senior campaign manager, ShareAction.

"Voting for this resolution sends a strong signal to the bank that investors expect it to publish a science-based climate strategy that covers all its main financing activities. We call on other investors to follow suit."

Switzerland's second-biggest bank will face scrutiny on multiple fronts at Friday's meeting, with proxy advisers recommending shareholders reject the board's request to discharge managers from liability for the 2020 financial year over a series of costly scandals. Another shareholder is group seeking a special audit of the bank's actions. read more

The bank has since also warned it will report a first-quarter loss on Wednesday. read more

Norges Bank Investment Management, Norway's sovereign wealth fund, said it would also back the special audit and reject a 2020 discharge from liability for Credit Suisse managers, but would vote against the climate resolution.

Credit Suisse on Monday said it took note of the recommendations by Norges Bank, while pointing to its board's position, which recommended shareholders vote against the special audit as well as the shareholder climate resolution.

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Reporting by Simon Jessop and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi. Editing by Jane Merriman

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