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Pension funds criticize Toyota for anti-green lobbying

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Pension funds in Denmark and New York City expressed their dissatisfaction with Toyota Motor Co. Wednesday over what they see as lobbying activity that is slowing down a green transition.

“We are extremely concerned that Toyota’s lobbying activities are misaligned with its climate goals and its electric vehicle strategy,” New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, fiduciary of the $265.9 billion New York City Retirement Systems, said in an emailed statement before the car maker’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday.

“Toyota’s approach puts it at a competitive disadvantage compared to its peers, which have shown a far greater commitment to transitioning to battery electric vehicles. In addition, Toyota’s opposition to strong EV (electric vehicle) and climate policies creates significant reputational risk,” Mr. Lander said.

Those concerns are shared by the 134 billion kroner ($19 billion) pension fund AkademikerPension, Gentofte, Denmark, whose CIO Anders Schelde was unconvinced by Toyota’s response at the shareholder meeting.

“Toyota uses the pretext of customer choices to avoid answering the question about its lobbying activities around the world to slow the transition towards fossil-fuel-free cars. Technology is always developing, but companies should not work against regulation(s) that aim to speed up the rollout of EVs,” Mr. Schelde said in an emailed statement after the meeting.

“When Toyota defends its lobbying against government action to phase out fossil-fuel cars, it echoes of tobacco companies defending their product against regulation. As investors, we expect more in 2022 against the backdrop of the climate crisis threatening to limit much more than customer choices in a not-so-distant future,” Mr. Schelde said.

AkademikerPension withdrew a shareholder proposal in 2021 after Toyota committed to revising its climate-related lobbying practices. Seeing little change one year later, the Danish pension fund prepared a similar one that the company rejected as being filed too late.

Changing lobbying activities with governments that are trying to phase out cars with internal combustion engines “will be a step towards protecting the company from increasing consumer distrust and shareholder protests,” Mr. Schelde said.

A call to Toyota for comment was not returned.