Activist investors will put forward a record 142 shareholder resolutions during the upcoming proxy season asking corporations to strengthen their environmental commitments in areas ranging from greenhouse gas reductions and energy efficiency to deforestation and water use.
A nonprofit group, Ceres, released a list that covers a broad range of topics and industries. A common thread is a demand for greater transparency about the risks associated with the production and use of carbon-based fuels and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. For a number of targeted companies, especially those in the energy sector, such resolutions have become a perennial event, and few of the climate change resolutions garner overwhelming, or even majority, support from shareholders. Proponents of the resolutions state that they have a positive effect, and shareholder support has grown to upwards of 40%.
Ceres has reported that investor groups filed 23 resolutions this year asking companies to set greenhouse gas reduction targets and increase transparency on how they are managing climate risks. Among the firms weighing such resolutions are oil and gas giants Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips, along with electric utilities like Ameren, Dominion Resources and Southern Co. Greenhouse gas-related petitions beyond the traditional energy sector include retailers such as Lowe’s and Advance Auto Parts, manufacturers Emerson Electric Co. and Polaris Industries, and even satellite television provider Dish Network. In one of the few shareholder votes to have been taken this year, the Emerson Electric resolution garnered 38% support at the company’s Feb. 3 stockholders’ meeting in St. Louis, despite a recommendation from Emerson’s board against the measure. Among other things, the company said in its proxy statement that “preparing a ‘sustainability report’ is not a prudent use of our human and financial resources, nor are such expenditures in the best interest of our stockholders.”
Environmental groups point to the growing number of companies that have acknowledged that climate change is a pressing issue that warrants immediate action from the private sector. More than 700 firms, for example, have signed onto Ceres’ “Climate Declaration” stating that climate change provides a huge economic opportunity in the 21st century.