BOSTON Nov 25 Activist shareholders plan a
record number of resolutions focused on climate change at U.S.
company annual meetings in 2017, even as President-elect Donald
Trump looks set to loosen environmental regulations.
Based on filings so far, U.S. companies are on track to face
roughly 200 resolutions on climate matters at their shareholder
meetings next year, according to Rob Berridge, who follows the
subject for Ceres, a sustainability advocacy group.
There were 174 such resolutions this year, Berridge said,
compared with 167 in 2015 and 148 in 2014. Many have been
directed at big oil and gas companies, though other sectors have
also been targeted, including technology and retail.
Activist shareholders broadly aim to curb companies' carbon
emissions and make energy usage more efficient, or at the very
least, to draw the attention of companies and investors to
climate change as an urgent problem.
They have had some limited success. Investors at Exxon Mobil
Corp the world's largest publicly traded oil producer,
passed a measure this year that could lead to an environmental
activist joining its board. "Our position is that the risk of
climate change is clear and warrants action," said Exxon
spokesman Alan Jeffers.
The rising number of shareholder votes reflects a growing
concern among big investors about the environment, encouraged by
steps by some boards to embrace reforms.
Deadlines are fast approaching to get resolutions on the
ballot for shareholder meetings to be held in the spring.
The election victory of Trump, who is set to take over as
U.S. president on Jan. 20, only seems to have added impetus.
On the campaign trail, Trump dismissed human-caused climate
change as a "hoax" and pledged to dismantle the Environmental
Protection Agency. He also threatened to withdraw the United
States from the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate
change, although he appeared to step back from that position on
He vowed instead to revive the U.S. coal industry, encourage
oil drilling and to scale back regulation of the energy sector.
"Despite what the administration may or may not do, I really
believe that corporations understand the risks posed by climate
change," said Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, a
California nonprofit campaign group. It sponsored 18
climate-related shareholder resolutions in 2016 and expects to
file a bigger number next year.
One resolution for 2017 calls on Anadarko Petroleum Corp
to report on how it would address the risk of so-called
stranded assets, such as high-cost deepwater project
investments, that might be caused by a drop in demand for oil
and gas. The idea won support from 42 percent of shares voted at
the company's 2016 meeting, up from 29 percent in 2015.
Anadarko's board last year called the idea "unnecessary and
unproductive." Spokesman John Christiansen said it is reviewing
To be sure, among S&P 500 companies, investor support for
climate resolutions has been relatively weak, holding steady
around 22 percent since 2014, according to research firm Fund
But activists often won more backing for ideas such as
urging companies to report on their strategy for dealing with
climate change, according to the Sustainable Investments
Institute, a research firm specializing in shareholder votes,
supported by universities, pension funds and other institutional
Anne Simpson, director of sustainability for the California
Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers), which manages
about $300 billion, said it plans to file or back resolutions at
U.S. oil and gas companies for 2017, though she declined to
Last year the boards of mining companies including Rio Tinto
Plc and Glencore Plc endorsed resolutions
Calpers submitted calling for reports on climate risk, and the
measures passed by wide margins.
More companies will likely embrace shareholder proposals to
head off disruption caused by climate change, Simpson said.
"Economics is driving this, not politics," she said.
(Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Bill Rigby)