Shareholders of ExxonMobil and Chevron and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) say they will focus on climate change at the companies’ annual general meetings (AGMs) this coming Wednesday.
Fossil fuel companies are facing increased scrutiny from policy-makers, investors and the public due to the growing body of scientific evidence on the industry's impacts of climate change. This scrutiny has intensified in recent months as world leaders prepare for the climate talks in Paris this fall, and faith communities around the world anticipate the imminent release of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment.
Institutional investors in ExxonMobil and Chevron, two of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, have several climate-related proposals on the company proxies this year. The inevitability of climate regulation means greenhouse gas emissions pose serious and material risks to the long-term health of fossil fuel companies and investors have advocated for emissions reductions and increased investments in the development of more sustainable forms of energy production. Frustrated by what they view as slow and insufficient gains on these concerns, they are expecting more meaningful commitments that indicate that the board and management of these companies are responding to mounting calls for climate action.
“As a shareholder and long-term investor, the Vermont Pension Investment Committee believes it is in the best interest of the company and its long-term shareholders for ExxonMobil to examine its practices and develop goals to drive performance. We believe that clear greenhouse gas emission-reduction goals will make Exxon more competitive and, in turn, protect shareholder value and address climate risk. Climate change poses real financial risks,” said Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce.
Members and allies of the ICCR, a coalition of institutional investors that advocates for improved corporate environmental and social performance, will present resolutions on GHG-reduction targets and risk-management protocols in natural gas production, among others.
“While some of these climate resolutions have been on the proxy before, given the devastating climate impacts we are already seeing, the stakes have grown exponentially higher, as have the expectations of investors,” said ICCR member Sister Patricia Daly, OP of the Sisters of St Dominic of Caldwell, NJ. “There is significant frustration in the investment community, and Misters Tillerson and Watson need to demonstrate to those of us who are still here that they aren’t tone deaf to what is perhaps the most urgent threat currently facing the planet and its people. Rather than dig in their heels and resist the inevitable, we are hopeful they have the vision to take advantage of the many business opportunities the new, green economy will present.”
The proposal to set quantitative and time-bound GHG-reduction targets, led by the Sisters of St. Dominic, is supported by a coalition of global investors that collectively represent over $1 trillion in assets. Those that have declared their support for climate action include global funds AP2, AP3, AP4, and AP7 of Sweden; CCLA, Northern Ireland Local Government Officers' Superannuation Committee and the West Yorkshire Pension Fund; U.S. Public Funds of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the State of Connecticut, the State of Massachusetts, New York City and the State of Vermont; many major faith-based funds including the Presbyterian Church USA Board of Pensions, the Unitarian Universalist Association, Bon Secours Health System, and dozens of Catholic institutions, and the asset management companies Calvert Investments, Walden Asset Management, Zevin Asset Management and Christian Brothers Investment Services.
“There is wide consensus among those in the investment community that these companies need to make more significant and faster progress to address the growing threats of climate change,” said Rev. Séamus Finn of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and ICCR Board Chair. “Many of our faith-based members have missionary presences in the world’s most vulnerable communities. We are acutely aware of climate change’s potential to exacerbate the inequality at the root of the social justice problems these communities already face. The moral imperative for leadership on climate from ExxonMobil and Chevron is clear; their failure to model best practices for the sector will be seen as just that, a failure.”
Other fossil fuel companies have already made climate-conscious commitments. In February, Royal Dutch Shell’s board of directors ratified a shareholder resolution that committed the oil giant to investing in a low-carbon future.