In a stark rebuke to senior management, 62% of ExxonMobil shareholders have ordered the world’s biggest oil and gas company to report annually on how its business is affected by global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris agreement.
The vote was “a milestone in a 28-year effort by activist investors,” InsideClimate News reports, and represented a dramatic shift from Exxon’s 2016 annual meeting, when only 38% of shareholders supported essentially the same resolution.
“The vote at Exxon shows the rapid erosion of support for the company’s defiant stance on climate disclosure, and it caps a shareholder meeting season that saw unprecedented support for greater corporate disclosure on climate change,” ICN notes.
“In recent weeks, shareholders voted in favour of climate risk analysis at two other major energy companies, Occidental Petroleum and PPL, Pennsylvania’s largest utility. Climate-related shareholder resolutions also garnered record support at other big U.S. utilities that rely on fossil fuels: Dominion Resources (47.8%), Duke Energy (46.4%), and DTE Energy (45%).”
ICN reporter Marianne Lavelle cast the result as evidence that momentum for climate action is growing in the United States, regardless of the path the current occupant of the White House chooses to follow.
“Mainstream investment firms are asking harder questions of companies as scientific evidence of the need for deep decarbonization of the global economy mounts,” Lavelle notes. The fossil industry and its allies are pushing back, claiming that “securities law on disclosure is meant to inform investors of potential returns, not to implement social policy,” she writes. “But institutional investors argue that climate risk is a long-term financial risk that should be integrated into financial reporting.”
With investment powerhouses like BlackRock, with $5.1 trillion under management, demanding greater disclosure, pressure on fossil companies is rising fast.
“I think we are witnessing a truly historic shift in shareholder support for these resolutions,” said Andrew Logan, director of the Ceres oil and gas program. “It’s a sign that the world is getting ahead of the oil industry. When you have very conservative institutions like BlackRock and Vanguard taking these positions, you know the issue has changed in some fundamental way.”