ExxonMobil manages to avoid shareholders vote on global warming
by Vicki Wolf
The ExxonMobil shareholders had fifteen resolutions to vote on at their annual meeting in May, and only one was indirectly related to global warming. It was the first time in 10 years that the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) did not introduce resolutions on global warming. Last year the ICCR sponsored the Kyoto Compliance Resolution, which received a 28.3 percent vote. It was the highest vote ever received for an environmentally-related resolution.
This year, ExxonMobil decided to keep global warming resolutions from coming to a vote by shareholders. All shareholders resolutions must be submitted under the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Companies have a right to keep resolutions out of the proxy by arguing their case before the commission. ExxonMobil argued against three resolutions submitted by the ICCR and won. They were:
Kyoto Compliance Resolution – Shareholders request the Board undertake a comprehensive review and publish within six months of the annual meeting a report on how ExxonMobil will meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets of those countries in which it operates which have adopted the Kyoto Protocol.
Disclose Climate Data – By the 2007 annual shareholder meeting, the Board of Directors will make available to shareholders the research data relevant to ExxonMobil's stated position on the science of climate change, omitting proprietary information and at reasonable cost.
Low-Carbon Leadership – Shareholders request the Board to establish policies designed to achieve the long-term goal of making ExxonMobil the recognized leader in low-carbon emissions in both our production and products.
The resolution that did make the proxy and received a 6.3 percent vote called for the board of directors to adopt a policy of annually nominating, whenever possible, at least two independent directors who, without any conflicts of interest vis a vis ExxonMobil, hold expertise in the oil, gas or energy industry.
Michael Crosby, a priest working with the ICCR, has been involved in bringing environmental issues to ExxonMobil shareholder meetings since in 1973. “You saw a new face on the meeting this year,” Crosby says. “They are much more sophisticated in how they articulate things. They give with one hand and take with the other.”
Crosby says the ICCR will be looking at new strategies for next year. “We are going to have to get a lot slicker ourselves,” Crosby says. “We are in a new era on this issue. We have been talking about global warming for 10 years but we have never used words like ‘crisis.’ Now we will.”
Although not much attention was given to climate change inside the meeting, outside about 50 protesters, led by ExxposeExxon, called on the company to address global warming and invest in alternative fuels. Some of the protesters wore large blue barrels, resembling oil barrels, and banners saying: “No Planet, No Dividends” and “Stop Pumping Junk Science.”