ExxonMobil investors received a challenge from the company that seeks to exclude the climate-justice proposal from this year’s proxy ballot. If ExxonMobil is successful, the company’s shareholders will be denied the opportunity to vote on the merits of the proposal at the May 25 annual general meeting.
The resolution calls on ExxonMobil’s board to acknowledge the moral imperative to limit global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, a science-based threshold that all concede must not be exceeded if the planet is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The 2°C target has been adopted by 95 percent of the nations that participated in the Paris UN COP21 talks and is further supported by more than 100 leading companies through the Science-Based Target Initiative. This resolution is among eight being submitted to ExxonMobil by ICCR members this year.
“Exxon’s policy principles state ‘the long-term objective of climate change policy should be to reduce the risks of serious harm to humanity and ecosystems at minimum societal cost, while recognizing additional shared humanitarian necessities, including providing reliable and affordable energy to improve global living standards,’” says David L. Moore Jr. CFA , ABHMS director of investments. “ICCR’s moral imperative to limit global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels is an attempt to clarify and make Exxon’s statement more specific. Much scientific evidence points to warming beyond this limit as particular high risk of serious harm to humanity and ecosystems. We all must continue to urge Exxon to explain why it won’t accept the 2°C limit, given the goal of long-term climate policy that it endorses.”
In its “No Action” challenge to the SEC, ExxonMobil claims that the proposal’s request—which is “vague” —“has been substantially implemented” as grounds for omitting it from its proxy statement. Shareholders argue that the resolution is clear and specific, and that the company has not met the principal request of the proposal: a commitment to support the 2°C goal to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change on the poor and the planet. They will appeal the company’s challenge with the SEC to have the proposal included on the company ballot.
Co-filers of the resolution, led by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J., include 34 institutional investors representing a cross-section of faith-based investors, health systems, socially responsible asset-management firms and indigenous and community groups.
“The moral dimensions of climate change are clear: They have been articulated in statements from the world’s political and faith leaders, including Pope Francis in his environmental Encyclical, Laudato Si‘,” says Sister Patricia Daly, OP, of the Sisters of St. Dominic. “This challenge demonstrates that ExxonMobil plans to continue to cling to an unsustainable paradigm that severely harms our planet, without reflecting on the moral dimensions of a business-as-usual scenario. I wonder what management fears will be revealed if they allow this resolution to go to a vote.”
Currently celebrating its 45th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for change. Its 300 member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, nongovernmental organizations and academic institutions representing combined assets of more than $100 billion with a record of corporate engagement that has demonstrated influence on corporate policies that further justice and sustainability.
ABHMS is a founding member of ICCR.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.