ExxonMobil Investors Make History with Majority Vote on Climate Risk Disclosure (Ceres Press Release)
Investors claimed a historic win today at ExxonMobil’s annual meeting with a majority vote in favor of a shareholder proposal calling on the oil and gas giant to assess and disclose how it is preparing its business for the transition to a low-carbon future. The proposal was hotly contested as Exxon’s management fought to sway investors right up to the last moment.
Institutional investors with more than $5 trillion of combined assets under management co-filed the proposal, including lead-filers from the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the Church Commissioners for England.
“This is an unprecedented victory at Exxon for investors in the fight to ensure a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. “Climate change is a risk to the core business of ExxonMobil, and the burden is now on the company to show that it is responsive to shareholder concerns.”
The vote at Exxon, coupled with recent majority votes at Occidental Petroleum and PPL Corporation, represent a historic shift in investor support for climate risk disclosure. As recently as 2015 these resolutions averaged 23 percent support. Now the very largest investors in the world are challenging the companies representing some of their biggest holdings on this issue.
A string of high votes this year at other U.S. oil and gas companies and electric utilities is elevating the call for enhanced disclosures on climate risk and opportunities amidst the energy transition. The proposal at Exxon specifically requests that the company publish an annual assessment of the long-term impacts of technological advances and climate policies on its full portfolio of reserves and resources, including a portfolio resilience assessment that considers a low oil demand scenario consistent with the globally agreed upon 2-degree target.
Global consensus has been building around the use of scenario analysis as a key tool for addressing climate risk. In December, the international Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures endorsed 2-degree scenario analysis in its draft recommendations. Global consultancies McKinsey & Company, Deloitte, as well as credit ratings giant Moody’s Investors Service, have also publicly endorsed scenario analysis as being uniquely suited for managing risks and opportunities presented by the energy transition. Significantly, a number of large asset management firms based in the U.S.—including BlackRock, Vanguard and Fidelity Investments—have also added their names to the list of mainstream investors supporting such analysis and disclosure.
“Shareowners have spoken. The majority vote at ExxonMobil – the world’s largest oil company – demonstrates that investors are seeking strong reporting and scenario analysis to better understand the risks and opportunities of climate change, and the transition to a low carbon economy.” said Anne Simpson, investment director of sustainability at CalPERS. “This is a turning point.”
“Climate change is real — and it’s having a real effect on both our planet and the economy. The Paris Agreement showed there’s global political will to limit global warming, and today we are well on our way to a low-carbon future,” said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
“ExxonMobil has ignored investors’ concerns about climate change for too long. Today’s vote sends a clear message — shareowners want to see how a low-carbon future affects this company. ExxonMobil needs to take a hard look at what a greener future means and share that information with investors.”
“Today’s vote is a tumultuous outcome after decades of raising the moral and business risks associated with climate change at Exxon Mobil. We will continue to press the company to make meaningful disclosure and more importantly, to meet the dual objective of improving energy access while addressing the risks of climate change to the Earth and her people,” said Sister Patricia Daly, OP, from Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, NJ, and a longtime advocate on this issue.
In addition, Tracey Rembert of Christian Brothers Investment Services, a co-filer who also represents the faith-based investor community, said, “Shareholder understanding of climate risk and the economics of the energy transition collided to catalyze investor voices as never before. The timing was key, the markets have spoken, climate risk is here.”
For decades, Ceres has been working with investors and companies to address how climate change risks may affect their business strategies.
“This majority vote sends a resounding message that market forces are continuing to drive toward a low carbon transition, and investors expect companies — especially carbon-intensive companies like Exxon — to show how they are addressing the corresponding risks and opportunities,” said Sue Reid, vice president of climate and energy at Ceres. “Business as usual is no longer an option for carbon-intensive companies like Exxon.”