31% ‘Yes’ Vote Puts Management on Defensive, Says Group
Santa Monica, CA — A surprisingly large minority of ExxonMobil shareholders, nearly one-third, demanded today at their annual meeting that the company reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and develop sources of renewable energy. Such a large vote for an outsider resolution on any issue except corporate governance would have been unthinkable a few years ago, said the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.
“Even shareholders who are currently gaining wealth from Exxon‘s sole focus on oil and gas see that it can’t last,” said Judy Dugan, research director of OilWatchdog.org and FTCR. “Just ask industrial dinosaurs like General Motors whether they should have changed course sooner. If Exxon remains unresponsive, the next challenge will be how many of these deeply concerned investors decide to take their money out of the company.”
Among the institutional shareholders voting for the global warming resolution was Stanford University, which is under fire for taking strings-attached research money from Exxon, then allowing the company to trumpet its Stanford connection as proof of its green credentials. Stanford students, alumni and other critics, including FTCR, have called the deal a “greenwash” of the company’s otherwise dirty corporate practices.
The 31% “yes” vote was well short of the majority needed to pass, but was a sharp signal that large institutional investors are joining the movement to push Exxon into a sustainable future, said FTCR.
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson reiterated at the meeting that Exxon is in the oil and gas business, not the renewable energy business. Despite recent “green-sounding” corporate statements, he also downplayed the seriousness of global warming. “There are some things we know, some things we don’t know,” he said. “What I find perplexing is why people feel so threatened because we want to have a discussion about it.”
Tillerson’s go-slow policy and false doubts about global warming are rousing enough internal opposition to make the company pay attention, said FTCR. Similar environmental resolutions submitted in the late 1990s got votes in the single digits. Since 2003, when a climate-change resolution got 22% of the vote, shareholder demands for better environmental policies at Exxon have steadily increased.
“Shareholders of the world’s most environmentally unfriendly oil company have put renewable energy and global warming front and center, defying a strong management campaign against them,” said Dugan.
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a leading nonprofit and nonpartisan consumer watchdog group. For more information visit us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org and www.OilWatchdog.org.