Climate Directors Voted at Exxon

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Stockholm (NordSIP) – In a welcome blow to the fossil fuel industry, ExxonMobil shareholders elected two board members who pledged to ensure the oil giant takes steps to adapt and mitigate the impact of its activities on the environment. The process is not yet over and the outcome of the year-long campaign is not yet clear but at least half of the new directors proposed by stakeholder-activist investment fund Engine No. 1 were elected.

The focus of the campaign was on electing Gregory Goff, Kaisa Hietala, Anders Runevad and Alexander Karsner to the ExxonMobil’s board of directors, among a range of other nominees up for positions on the board.

- Promotion -

At the May 26th vote, shareholders re-elected ExxonMobil directors Darren Woods, Michael Angelakis, Susan Avery, Angela Braly, Ursula Burns, Kenneth Frazier, Joseph Hooley and Jeffrey Ubben. Of Engine No. 1’s nominees, only Goff and Hietala were elected. Karsner was still under consideration while Runevad was not elected.

“This is a landmark moment for Exxon and for the industry,” said Andrew Logan, a senior director at Ceres, a nonprofit investor network that pushes corporations to take climate change seriously. “How the industry chooses to respond to this clear signal will determine which companies thrive through the coming transition and which wither.”

The votes were supported by the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and by BlackRock. “Over the past several years, we have intensified our focus with the company on its long-term strategy and Exxon’s underperformance relative to both its peers and the S&P 500 over the last five years,” BlackRock explained in its Investment Stewardship Vote Bulletin on this shareholder meeting. The largest asset manager in the world emphasised the business case for aligning with the prevailing winds on climate change. “The risks of climate change and the transition to a lower carbon economy present material regulatory, reputational, and legal risks to companies that may significantly impair their financial position and ability to remain competitive going forward,” the Bulletin explained.

BlackRock also voted for the shareholder proposals on the Financial Impacts of IEA’s Net Zero 2050 Scenario, Lobbying Payments and Policy and Lobbying Aligned with Paris to increase transparency on ExxonMobil’s political activism.

According to ExxonMobil, “the board will reconsider two shareholder proposals that received majority shareholder approval, which include Item No. 9, calling for a report on lobbying, and Item No. 10, requesting a report on climate lobbying.”

“We welcome all of our new directors and look forward to working with them constructively and collectively on behalf of all shareholders,” said Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer, commenting on the vote. “We’ve been actively engaging with shareholders and received positive feedback and support, particularly for our announcements relating to low-carbon solutions and progress in efforts to reduce costs and improve earnings. We heard from shareholders today about their desire to further these efforts, and we are well positioned to respond.”

Image by Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia Commons

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The coronavirus epidemic has further accelerated the rise of ESG into the investment mainstream. As deficits skyrocket, bond investors have an opportunity to engage with governments on climate change, argues Thomas Dillon, Senior Macro ESG Analyst at Aviva Investors.

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