Working through the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and advocacy groups, the shareholders have introduced a series of resolutions meant to change how the world’s largest publicly traded energy company responds to global warming.
Dominican Sister Patricia Daly, executive director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, said the resolution that her group of 34 institutional investors has introduced seeks a “moral response” from the company through a policy acknowledging the need to limit global average temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
Speaking during a teleconference with reporters May 23, Sister Patricia said the resolution, like others pertaining to climate change, “have always been grounded in justice and good business.”
Six resolutions related to global warming are on the agenda for the meeting in Dallas. In a letter to shareholders, a company official has called for their rejection, saying the firm has long addressed global warming concerns.
The company had tried to remove the resolutions from the annual meeting agenda; however, the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled in March that shareholders must be allowed to vote.
While efforts such as the one from the investment coalition have been soundly defeated in the past, this year’s proposals come as ExxonMobil is under scrutiny for its long-standing policy of failing to publicly acknowledge how climate change was impacting its operations.
Seventeen state attorneys general are investigating ExxonMobil and other energy producers for fraud in concealing the impact of climate change on the world.
Another resolution proposed by Capuchin Father Michael H. Crosby, executive director of the Wisconsin/Iowa/Minnesota Coalition for Responsible Investment, asks that the ExxonMobil board of directors nominate at least one candidate with expertise in climate change and environmental matters.
Father Crosby explained during the teleconference that the resolution was introduced because the company “won’t give us access to board members.” He said that by having an environmental expert on the board, the company would be better able to managing the risk of climate change to its business model.
This year’s annual meeting will give Exxon Mobil “a chance to restore the public trust,” Father Crosby said.
Company spokesman Alan T. Jeffers told The New York Times in mid-May that ExxonMobil welcomed discussions with shareholders to help them understand that the firm sees the risks of climate change and that it is working on technology to lower carbon emissions.
UPDATE: None of the resolutions related to global warming and climate change were approved by ExxonMobil shareholders May 25.
The ICCR said in a press release afterward that the collective votes in favor of eight climate-related proposals “sent a clear message that shareholders are dissatisfied” with how the company is “managing climate risks, responding to the moral imperative and political reality of the 2-degree Celsius target, and aligning lobbyist activities and trade association memberships with its stated positions on climate change.”
The resolution submitted by Sister Daly on acknowledging the 2-degree Celsius target received support from 18.5 percent of shareholders.
Sister Patricia in the statement challenged a claim from CEO Rex Tillerman that ExxonMobil’s energy outlook is aligned with the climate change agreement reached in Paris in December, saying it was “misleading at best.”
“What the world needs and what shareholders demanded today is for ExxonMobil to acknowledge the 2-degree Celsius target and to begin to move their business sin that direction.”
A push also was made at Chevron’s shareholder meeting in San Ramon, California, Wednesday, where a similar shareholder resolution received more than 41 percent support. Another proposal from the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia called on the company to report assessing the impact of hydraulic fracturing — fracking — to produce natural gas on communities and water supplies. It received 31 percent support.
Sister Nora Nash, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis and a fracking expert, said in the ICCR statement the vote was encouraging and that efforts to press Chevron for greater disclosure will continue.
“Standing with Pope Francis we are shaping ‘the future of our planet.'” she said.