Corporate Climate Coups Averted
Exxon and Chevron shareholders vote to stay in business.
The New York State Common Retirement Fund and the Church of England endowment fund pushed a shareholder resolution that would have forced Exxon to set aggressive targets for emissions reductions based on the Paris Climate Accord. In 2017 activists bullied Exxon into publishing reports on how climate change could affect its business. But this time Exxon fought back and blocked the proxy resolution with support from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The New York pension fund and Church of England responded by promoting a resolution to dilute the authority of chairman and CEO Darren Woods. The two institutional investors also backed a measure to create a new board committee to evaluate “the potential impacts of climate change on business, strategy, financial planning, and the environment.” The committee would have had the authority to review and oversee corporate strategy “above and beyond matters of legal compliance.”
The same activists promoted similar resolutions at Chevron, but the climate-change board committee received only 7.4% of votes at Exxon and 8% at Chevron. Resolutions for an independent chairman fell short with 40.8% at Exxon and 26% at Chevron. In other words, hostile environmental takeovers were averted—but the goal of putting the companies out of business remains.