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On Wednesday, 62.3 percent of investors in oil giant Exxon Mobil voted for the company to produce an annual report on the impacts of climate change policies on the company’s business. The resolution, which was opposed by Exxon leadership, passed by a large margin compared to last year, when a similar resolution garnered only 38 percent of the investor vote.
According to a copy of the resolution posted by Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability organization, the investors want Exxon to “publish an annual assessment of the long-term portfolio impacts of technological advances and global climate change policies.” They also instruct the company to annually assess the financial risks of “a scenario in which reduction in demand results from carbon restrictions and related rules or commitments adopted by governments consistent with the globally agreed upon 2-degree target.”
Although Wednesday morning reports suggested that US President Donald Trump will leave the Paris Agreement signed by the Obama administration to limit greenhouse gases, the European Union and China have reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement, and Exxon is a global company that will be affected by the multinational agreement.
In late 2015, Exxon came under fire when New York’s attorney general opened an investigation into whether Exxon misled investors about the effects of climate change. Exxon’s scientists had allegedly been telling company leadership that climate change was an issue as early as the 1970s and ‘80s, but Exxon executives cast doubt on the idea publicly for decades. Rex Tillerson, the current US secretary of state and a former Exxon chairman and CEO, has been caught up in the ensuing state lawsuits as well, most notably for apparently using the undisclosed e-mail alias “Wayne Tracker” to communicate with other Exxon executives.
A few days in advance of today’s vote, Exxon tried to turn the tide of opinion among investors. According to CNBC, “Exxon had stepped up efforts to persuade investors to vote against climate-related proposals at Wednesday’s annual meeting with a campaign of calling, writing, and lobbying shareholders in person.”
Exxon has insisted that it already provides the relevant information to investors.
The investor resolution is non-binding. In an e-mail to Ars, Exxon media relations manager Alan T. Jeffers noted that the company’s chairman, Darren Woods, said the company would “consider all feedback from our shareholders.”
“Those votes receiving a majority level of support will be reconsidered by the board,” Jeffers added.
The resolution was co-authored by the New York City Pension Funds. In a statement, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said, “Today, we’re on our way to a sustainable, low-carbon future—it’s inevitable. Yet, ExxonMobil has ignored investors’ concerns about climate change for too long. Today’s vote sends a clear message—the Exxon Board needs to take a hard look today at what a greener tomorrow looks like. Continuing to rebuff investors is no longer an option.”