At today’s ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) Annual Meeting in Dallas, TX, shareholders voted 62.3% in favor of Proposal 12, which asked the company for reporting on its fossil fuel reserve risk under a 2 degree Celsius world. This was likely one of the most relevant environmental proxy votes this season, and the result showed that ExxonMobil shareholders’ views are aligned with the requirements of the Paris Agreement.
“This vote was a clear tipping point in the energy markets globally, as investors are finally ready to move beyond rhetoric, towards real action, and hold companies accountable for their impact on Creation,” said Tracey Rembert, Assistant Director of Catholic Responsible Investing at CBIS, who spoke at the meeting in Dallas. “It would not have happened if strong coalitions had not been forged—by ourselves and others—and if we had not made a convincing business and ethical case to other investors who ultimately backed this call for action. Exxon clearly heard its investors today, and CBIS will continue to engage with the company to ensure it moves forward in planning for a lower carbon future.”
“CBIS co-filed this proposal and spent time and resources to build support from other faith investors, and to make the business case to dozens of large institutional investors globally,” stated Julie Tanner, Director of Catholic Responsible Investing at CBIS. CBIS was part of a coalition of 54 investors with more than $5 trillion in assets under management that backed the proposal. We have engaged with ExxonMobil for the past 15 years, pressing it to acknowledge the science of climate change, to halt the funding of junk science, to report emissions and climate risk, and to prepare for the future of energy markets.
Our engagement with ExxonMobil is a clear example of why active ownership matters — to our investors, and to the planet. It especially matters now, when so many decisions are at stake to move our economy to one that is fiscally sound, competitive, and forging ahead. “Investors need to be adequately informed about the potential risks embedded in a company’s operation to make investment decisions,” said John Geissinger, CBIS’ Chief Investment Officer. “The old adage ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’ applies here. The mere act of disclosure can help company management prepare for future states of the world.”
Our Catholic Responsible Investing team is working on multiple fronts to help achieve these aims. We know environmental stewardship is a key concern of Catholic investors, as we are called by the Church to care for our common home, and to speak up for the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalized—communities potentially most impacted by climate change. Today’s vote at ExxonMobil was a resounding signal to the marketplace that climate risk and climate resiliency do matter to investors.
Beyond the momentous Exxon vote, CBIS has been working hard to build other kinds of momentum this year on the climate front. BP held its shareholder meeting in May, where climate change strategy was a focus. CBIS has hosted two meetings between BP and institutional investors since March 2017, one with the Chair of BP’s Remuneration Committee and its head of long-term planning, and another in-person meeting at our New York offices with climate, energy outlook, and policy staff. Between the two meetings, trillions of dollars in assets under management were represented to raise climate concerns.
CBIS had co-filed resolutions at BP (NYSE: BP) and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS) in 2015, which received near unanimous support; the companies committed to disclose information about greenhouse gas emissions, research and development on low-carbon alternatives, executive incentives, and public policy positions on climate change. CBIS continues to work with them on delivering all of these.