Own Woodside shares? Here's why tomorrow is shaping up to be a big day

Why is Wednesday so important for Woodside shareholders?

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If you own Woodside Energy Group Ltd (ASX: WDS) shares, you'll have been invited to participate in tomorrow's Annual General Meeting (AGM).

You can do this online or by attending the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) energy stock's AGM personally at Crown Perth in Western Australia. Management is encouraging stockholders to submit questions and cast their votes on several critical issues being put before them.

If you're familiar with Woodside shares, you likely know of the two biggest issues drawing investor and media attention heading into the AGM.

First, stockholders will get to vote on the company's Climate Transition Action Plan (CTAP), which Woodside published on 27 February.

Media, including The Australian Financial Review, have been speculating that some of Woodside's largest shareholders are likely to vote against CTAP. That includes HESTA, which owns almost 1% of Woodside shares.

Some other disgruntled investors will reportedly push tomorrow to have Woodside chair Richard Goyder voted off the board. HESTA was said to be set to vote in support of Goyder's re-election.

Here's what we know.

Woodside shares aiming for greener future

Woodside CEO Meg O'Neill adamantly backs the company's CTAP, saying this will help guide Woodside shares profitably through the ongoing global energy transition.

"Our climate strategy is integrated throughout our corporate strategy as we provide the energy our customers need today and into a lower carbon future, create and return value to shareholders, and conduct our business sustainably," O'Neill said last month.

On Friday, O'Neill highlighted the difference she sees between Woodside's climate plan and the pie-in-the-sky plans being trotted out by some energy companies to mollify their ESG-focused stockholders.

According to O'Neill (quoted by the AFR):

If you look across the sector, there are some companies who laid out some very aggressive targets. We have laid out targets that we are honest about, and we have confidence in delivering.

That's the difference between ourselves and some other companies that have said things to appease shareholders perhaps without a clear plan to deliver it. So I think we all need to be really upfront about the complexity of climate change and the complexity of energy transition, and that's something that we're doing.

Woodside's chairman responds

Last week, Woodside shareholders will also have received a communication from Goyder.

Addressing the potential controversy surrounding the company's climate plan, Goyder said, "You may have seen in the media that some proxy advisers have sought to reject the CTAP based on a perceived lack of shareholder engagement. We disagree with this assessment."

In response to investor feedback, Goyder added:

Woodside committed to put its climate disclosures to a vote of shareholders at this year's AGM. Such a vote is not required by law or a feature of common market practice but is something that our investors specifically asked for and we have met this commitment.

He said the ASX 200 oil and gas company is "being honest about the energy transition".

And he warned that some demands from activist investors could unduly pressure Woodside shares:

We are concerned that some stakeholders' and investors' requests to drastically change Woodside's strategy and investment priorities risk eroding value for all shareholders and contributing to a disorderly energy transition. The energy transition will take time and significant investment.

Motley Fool contributor Bernd Struben has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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