VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 3/30/16)—The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled March 24 that climate change-related resolutions must appear on ExxonMobil’s annual proxy statement, allowing shareholders to vote on them at the annual meeting slated for May 25. Last month, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) joined other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) in submitting one such resolution acknowledging the moral imperative that ExxonMobil limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
The SEC’s decision is a victory for the resolution’s faith-based proponents, who have pressed ExxonMobil for decades to adapt its business to address the dire impacts of climate change on global communities.
“This critical moral imperative climate resolution will provide ExxonMobil shareholders a significant proxy voting opportunity to address global warming risks as part of overall corporate strategy,” says David L. Moore Jr. CFA, ABHMS director of investments. “ExxonMobil should define its vision for a sustainable climate future beyond the next quarter’s returns.”
It is widely acknowledged in the scientific community that global warming must not exceed 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels if the worst impacts of climate change are to be avoided. This decision from the SEC comes only days after the release of a new study from 19 leading climate scientists, warning that catastrophic impacts may occur even if warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius.
The resolution, coordinated by the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, was filed by 34 institutional investors representing a cross-section of faith-based investors, health systems, socially responsible asset-management firms and indigenous and community groups. In its “No Action” challenge to the SEC, ExxonMobil claimed that the proposal’s request is “vague” and that it “has been substantially implemented” as grounds for omitting it from its proxy statement. Shareholders argued that the resolution is clear and specific, and that the company has not met the principal request of the proposal. With the SEC’s decision, shareholders will now have the opportunity to vote on ExxonMobil’s moral responsibilities on climate change.
Said Sister Patricia Daly, OP, of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J., lead filer of the resolution, “This year’s Holy Days are celebrated in the midst of violence and ecological turmoil. As people of faith attempt to respond to the needs of the world, it is critical and timely that our call for ExxonMobil to acknowledge the moral imperative of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will go to their shareholders for consideration. ExxonMobil and its shareholders now face a choice: acknowledge the untold suffering that climate change will cause and work towards solutions, or remain willfully blind to the impacts of their ‘business-as-usual’ approach.”
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.