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Investors are Encouraged to Support Shareholder Proposals at Southern Company

The Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment is encouraging shareholders to vote in favor of shareholder proposals at the May 25th Annual General Meeting of The Southern Company.  Tri-State CRI supported the drafting and filing of Item 9 on the proxy, which was filed by the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth and 10 co-filers, who are members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

This proposal has received support from both proxy advisory firms, ISS and Glass Lewis, with global institutional investors already declaring their support here. More information making the case in support of the proposal is available in our Exempt Solicitation here. CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the United States, also filed an Exempt Solicitation in support, available here.

Item 9 asks the Board to publish a report outlining its business plan for this alignment that would include information about all the component parts needed to shift Southern’s business, including how Southern will strategically and systematically:

  • Integrate distributed energy resources  like storage and generation,
  • Demand response programs,
  • Smart grid technologies, and
  • Corresponding revenue models and rate designs.

This shift must also be prioritized by management and in Southern’s executive schemes, so we also request the report include information on steps you will take to align with the 2 degree goal, related to:

  • Incentivizing executives to meet these goals,
  • Shape Southern’s research and development agenda to support these efforts, and
  • Align public policy positions and engagement strategy with state regulators with meeting a 2 degree target.

This is a new moment, after the Paris Climate Agreement last winter, where 195 countries agreed to limit increases in global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius or less. We must all be working toward the 2°C goal to stave off devastating impacts that will arise if we surpass that goal.  Even still, warming above 1.5 degrees will have detrimental impacts on communities. This will include forced migration of individuals in low-lying areas, creating climate refugees.  It will result in record high temperatures throughout the world, making some regions in the Middle East uninhabitable.

There is a strong case before investors for supporting this resolution at Southern Company:

  1. Southern faces regulatory and financial risk from climate change policy, including the Paris Climate Agreement and Clean Power Plan, and the carbon intensity of Southern’s operations.
  2. Southern’s current approach to reducing GHG emissions, including major capital investments, may entail material financial risks, related to cost overruns and delays at Kemper and Vogtle, and the debt issued to acquire AGL Resources, which recently led Moody’s and Fitch Ratings to downgrade The Southern Company rating .  The SEC recently initiated investigations into the Kemper plant related to cost-overruns and delays.
  3. Southern has inadequate disclosure on its strategy for aligning its business with a carbon constrained world. Southern still does not report to the CDP.  In addition, information on Southern’s scenario planning is not disclosed, and it therefore is impossible to assess how the possibility of a 2˚C scenario might impact operations.
  4. Finally, Southern Company will realize strategic benefits from this kind of reporting because it will enable you to seize opportunities and increase the resiliency of the business in the face of new regulatory developments.

A recent report from the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi) ranking the climate orientation of the boards of the top 25 U.S. electric utilities on Climate Change, Corporate Governance, and Politics indicated that The Southern Company lags behind its peers, especially as it relates to political spending and lobbying.  As You Sow has also filed a shareholder proposal on Carbon Asset Risk, Item 10 on the proxy, with more information available here. Investors are encouraged to support both of these resolutions on Wednesday May 25th at Southern Company.

Sister Patricia Daly to ExxonMobil: Get on board with Paris goals (Responsible Investor)

From Responsible Investor (link)

Shareholders are encouraged to support the ‘moral imperative’ resolution on May 25

by Sister Patricia Daly | May 10th, 2016

Will climate change impact everyone the same way? What will happen to low-lying populations and vulnerable peoples if warming exceeds 2°C? Are these impacts fair? Mitigating climate change has been called the moral imperative of our generation. But what is our role as responsible investors to address this challenge?

Amid this new moment, with Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ presenting a framework for our coexistence with the planet, stating that “the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all,” and the Paris Agreement providing a goal of limiting warming to 2°C or less for the global community to work toward, ExxonMobil investors put the question before the company – must you acknowledge the moral imperative to limit warming to 2°C? Must you recognize this global goal to protect our planet and the people living on it? On May 25th, shareholders of ExxonMobil will have the opportunity to call on their company to join the rest of the world in acknowledging the imperative to keep warming to safe levels by supporting Item 11 on the proxy.

This resolution has striking applicability to ExxonMobil. This is even more appropriate this year amid questions of Exxon’s liability, or at least poor integrity, related to its knowledge about the climate impacts of its core business practices. ExxonMobil is the subject of investigations from multiple state Attorneys General for poor disclosure to investors and the public on what it knew about climate change, and is facing intense public scrutiny for its role in interfering with climate action. This is not only historic action: even in 2015, ExxonMobil spent $27million on staff, communications, lobbying, and trade associations to undermine policy action on climate change. This strategy has succeeded in keeping the policy agenda on climate change stalled for decades.

ExxonMobil Fails to Block Climate Justice Proposal at the SEC

Faith-Based Shareholders Force Vote at ExxonMobil on Moral Imperative of Limiting Global Warming to 2 Degrees Celsius

New York, NY, Thursday, March 24, 2016 – As a result of an SEC ruling yesterday, for the first time ExxonMobil shareholders will grapple with the moral and justice implications of climate change, as related to the company’s business.

After ExxonMobil challenged a series of climate-related shareholder proposals including one proposed by faith-based investors asking ExxonMobil to acknowledge the moral imperative to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, this year the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled that these resolutions must appear on the annual proxy statement forcing a vote by shareholders at the annual meeting on May 25th .

The SEC’s decision is a victory for the resolution’s faith-based proponents and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility who have pressed Exxon for decades to adapt its business to address the dire impacts of climate change on global communities.

Said Sister Patricia Daly, OP, of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, NJ, the 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˚C 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.”

It is widely acknowledged in the scientific community that global warming must not exceed 2˚C above pre-industrial levels if the worst impacts of climate change are to be avoided. Indeed, this decision from the SEC comes only days after the release of a new study from 19 leading climate scientists, including James Hansen, warning that catastrophic impacts may occur even if warming is limited to 2˚C.

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 principle request of the proposal. With the SEC's decision, shareholders will now have the opportunity to vote on Exxon's moral responsibilities on climate change.

“The moral responsibility to acknowledge the impacts of human dependence on fossil fuels and take action remains an urgent priority for all, none more so than the producers of these fuels. In asking ExxonMobil to acknowledge the imperative of limiting global warming to 2˚C, this resolution seeks to bring Exxon in line with the consensus of over 190 nations, which adopted this goal in the Paris Climate Agreement this past December, as well as the numerous oil and gas companies that have expressed support for the 2˚C target. We strongly encourage all shareholders to support the resolution at ExxonMobil’s annual general meeting on May 25th ,” urged Sister Patricia Daly.

PDF of press release available here.

Tri-CRI Meets with Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who was the primary author of Laudato Si', was in New York this month and we were pleased to have the opportunity to not only, see him speak, but also meet with him.  He was the keynote speaker at a session entitled “Catholics, Capitalism, and the Climate,” at Molloy College on February 17th. In our meeting with Cardinal Turkson, we shared the work of the Tri-State Coalition and Catholic institutions, along with ICCR, in great depth. We covered the history of our work, efforts related to human trafficking and modern day slavery, concerns around water, sustainable agriculture, GMOs, food commodities, access to medicines, and climate change, and work in community investments, climate finance, and responsible banking.  Cardinal Turkson shared his thoughts on the numerous ways in which the work of the Pontifical Council intersects with our mission. Based on this meeting, we are hopeful that we can be resources for each other and support our shared work to encourage justice and peace. One way might be by providing a greater link to global Catholic communities impacted by corporate operations throughout the world.

Later that afternoon, Cardinal Turkson delivered the Keynote Address at “Catholics, Capitalism, and the Climate,” focusing on the contributions of Laudato Si’ to these topics. Cardinal Turkson elaborated that creation established a “three-fold level of relationship for the human person: with God (creator), with other human persons in a bond of fraternity and with the world as the garden-home for our existence.”


Tri-CRI applauds Cambell's Leadership on GMO Labelling

The Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment joins the broader Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility community in welcoming Cambell's announcement that it will begin voluntarily labeling food products containing GMO ingredients.  This decision places Campbell's in a leadership role in terms of transparency and sustainability in the food sector.

Tri-CRI also recognizes the leadership of Cathy Rowan, who represents our member the Mary Knoll Sisters, in facilitating ICCR's dialogue with Campbell's for a number of years. This is the latest in a string of victories that Cathy has secured with Campbell's as it strives towards sustainability and respect for human rights.

For more information, please see ICCR's press release below:


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