Australian Shareholders Association backs in Woodside chair Richard Goyder amid proxy war

Headshot of Matt Mckenzie
Matt MckenzieThe West Australian
The Australian Shareholders Association has backed in Woodside chair Richard Goyder.
Camera IconThe Australian Shareholders Association has backed in Woodside chair Richard Goyder. Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos/Getty Images

Three groups have backed in Woodside chair Richard Goyder as he fights off an onslaught from a key proxy advisory and activist investors.

Proxy firm CGI Class Lewis told investors to boot Mr Goyder off the board at an upcoming meeting amid concerns over Woodside’s responsiveness to climate concerns.

Industry super fund HESTA and Australian Council of Superannuation Investors have voiced support for Mr Goyder, but both fired warning shots over the company’s climate plans.

The non-profit Australian Shareholders Association — which advocates for retail shareholders — on Thursday said Mr Goyder “has been good for Woodside”.

ASA pointed to the appointment of Meg O’Neill as “a new and very good” chief executive in 2021 and moves to improve corporate governance.

He also played a leading role in the $40bn merger with BHP’s petroleum division and puts Woodside’s climate plan up to a regular vote, ASA said in a report to members.

“We believe that the opposition to his re-election is not in the best interests of shareholders,” the report said.

On climate, ASA said action was a key element of executive remuneration plans, at 15 per cent of the scorecard.

But ASA did flag a warning on safety after the tragic death of contractor Michael Jurman on the North Rankin platform in June 2023.

HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said the super fund — which has about $60bn of funds under management from health and community workers — had voted for Mr Goyder.

“This decision reflects the constructive nature of ongoing engagement and our belief that there continues to be positive progress towards adding additional board skills,” she said in a statement.

HESTA also said there was a “significant gap between the current (climate) plan and a 1.5 (degree) transition pathway”.

ACSI gave a qualified recommendation in favour of Mr Goyder but said it was unclear how Woodside would cut emissions after 2030.

The super fund body said Woodside had spent US$335m of the US$5bn flagged for investment in new energy products by 2030.

Woodside has argued shareholder dissent against Mr Goyder was limited to just 0.003 per cent of the register.

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility — which has been leading the public criticism of the Woodside chair — said a series of recent votes point to wider dissatisfaction with Woodside on climate.

CGI Glass Lewis aimed their canons on Mr Goyder late last week, arguing Woodside needed to sharpen up its shareholder engagement after those tight climate votes at recent annual meetings.

Woodside shares were up 2 per cent to $30.59 each at the close of trade on Thursday.

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