Sr. Pat Daly Actively Invites Confluence Members to Join in Shareholder Advocacy on Climate Change
(Article originally published by Confluence Philanthropy)
Tim Smith, Confluence Advisor Member and Director of ESG Shareowner Engagement at Walden Asset Management, reports back from Sister Pat Daly’s keynote presentation at Confluence’s 2017 Annual Practitioners Gathering. Tim is a member of the steering committee for Confluence’s Active Owners Working Group, dedicated to helping funders and investors work together to promote governmental and corporate transparency & accountability, as well as fair & equitable representation in the political process.
Under the Confluence banner “Love & Resilience”, the theme for the Confluence 7th Annual “Practitioners Gathering”, Sister Pat Daly invited attendees to “deepen our work together.” Sister Pat, a Dominican Sister, has been a leader in the religious community in the arena of responsible investing and the environment for over a quarter century. She was pictured on the front page of the New York Times Magazine for her 20 years of work on Exxon Mobil related to climate change.
Truly a marathon runner in sustainable and responsible investing (SRI), Pat spoke of her work with other investors pressing companies like Southern Company, Chevron and Exxon Mobil first to face the reality of climate change and then to take strong steps to reduce their contributions to climate change. In her work, in partnership with ICCR and other investors, she creatively harnessed their power and leverage as investors filing shareholder resolutions to broaden the debate.
Pat reminded the attendees that ICCR had worked on the apartheid issue for over 20 years before change in South Africa, a sign of the necessity to dig in for the long term. She also noted that over the years the investor pressure on companies had often turned into “constructive ongoing dialogue” and a positive spirit. While Pat can certainly be a forceful and tough advocate with companies, many times this turned from confrontation to dialogue.
Pat’s climate change advocacy has included a tough campaign against a company-led climate denying coalition called the Global Climate Coalition. Pushed by ICCR and other investors, scores of companies bolted from membership in the Global Climate Coalition until it folded. Moving to recent campaigns, Pat highlighted new demands of companies to do “2 degree Transition Planning”, noting a shareholder resolution to Exxon Mobil led by New York State and the Church of England and supported by her coalition. This call has had some traction in Europe and in the U.S. the resolution received 38% and 41% votes at Exxon Mobil and Chevron; this year scores of investors with $4.5 Trillion in assets filed the resolution with Exxon Mobil.
Pat concluded with an invitation to Confluence members to join in engaging companies and voting proxies. When asked about her position on the “divestment versus engagement debate,” Pat spoke passionately about her admiration for the work of the Divestment Movement and the international leadership role it has played. The moral message it has sent has been powerful and effective, she said. She then noted as a Dominican Sister, she was part of an Order who believed in “preaching” so she believed in keeping her shares, teaming up with others and exercising investor leverage on companies.
She also noted many companies’ goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, including Wal-Mart; some have turned a corner to become important allies in the debate and can put pressure on other companies. This was a welcome opportunity for Confluence members to meet a veteran leader on climate change from the ranks of religious investors.