Exxon & Chevron Campaign
While the global divestment movement continues to grow, most investors still hold fossil fuel stocks. Financial risks related to those holdings are becoming more and more clear – and the moral ones are even more significant. Shareholders have a responsibility to pressure these firms to prevent catastrophic climate change as well as value destruction and 'stranded assets’.
We are coordinating an effort to influence the outcome of voting on 8 climate change-related resolutions at the Exxon Mobil and Chevron Annual General Meetings (AGMs) on May 25th, 2016, by gathering support from faculty members at the world's leading universities calling on the Chief Investment Officers of their endowments and pension funds to vote for these resolutions.
A second open letter will bring together at least 1,000 faculty signatories from the world's most influential universities along with a large number of engineers and professionals from the oil & gas industry. It will be directed at Exxon Mobil and Chevron's top 20 investors, which together own 20% of the companies, as well as the top voting advisory companies, which advise on 30% of votes cast. Together these investors have the power to pass all 8 resolutions, potentially changing the behaviour and future plans of two of the world’s largest oil and gas companies.
All who invest in Exxon-Mobil and Chevron should surely use their voices as shareholders to influence these companies’ policies. Universities have a special responsibility. Their students and faculty are rightly anxious about the consequences of continuing fossil fuel use — and, as respected institutions, their potential influence could be substantial.
I applaud this global multi-university initiative to influence Exxon Mobil and Chevron to join the rest of the world in fighting climate change. I encourage all of my academic colleagues to support it by signing these letters. University endowments need to know that the faculty care as much about climate change as the students do.
Universities are charitable corporations. They ought to take heed of their designation: working for the best interests of society as the core of their existence. This means not placing their own financial strategies first if those strategies might harm society. Let us take the long view. Use imagination informed by fact. Envision the future as it might be. Almost every new scientific report, including recent ones about the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, put this handwriting on the wall: “The times they are a-changin’.”
Institutions that take seriously their task of preparing the leaders of tomorrow need to consider the future itself. Climate change represents a real and indisputable threat to the planet and its inhabitants, and these institutions should summon their moral authority and influence to lead the transition to a carbon-neutral economy.
This is a clever and cooperative approach to corporate change; Exxon and Chevron would do well to heed the advice of so many eminent academics.
Divestment is good, and often also the profitable path. It doesn’t get much more symbolic than the company with the New York Stock Exchange symbol “BTU” declaring bankruptcy. Positive investment takes divestment a step further. It means energy companies taking the risks of climate change seriously in their investment decisions. It also means considering climate policy itself not as a risk but as an opportunity.
After almost 200 world leaders agreed to limit global temperature rises to ‘well below 2 degrees, with an ambition for 1.5' at the Paris Climate Conference last year, the movement to make our economy fossil-free has embarked on a new project. We are trying to influence two US oil giants, Exxon and Chevron, at their Annual General Meetings (AGMs) with the intention of passing 8 climate change-related resolutions.
In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, no more than a third of known fossil fuel reserves can be burnt. Many companies, including Exxon and Chevron, have therefore invested in resources that are ‘unburnable’. As the world enacts legislation and takes steps to avert global warming, therefore, these reserves are likely to become ‘stranded assets’ – sunk costs that are unable to turn a profit for the companies. Firms that are investing in projects likely to become ‘stranded’ are gambling shareholders’ money on a high-carbon future, and investors are increasingly concerned about this financial risk.
At AGMs, a company’s shareholders are able to influence major strategic decisions by voting in for or against resolutions. Eight climate-specific resolutions have been submitted for the Exxon and Chevron AGMs, which are happening on May 25th. The resolutions cover 2-degree business plans, lobbying, ‘stranded assets’, and more. ShareAction has been approaching shareholders of these companies to persuade them to vote for these resolutions. Inspired by the voting declaration process the CCLA-convened Aiming for A coalition used for BP and Shell last year, INCR, PRI, and RI have set up voting declaration platforms for some of these resolutions this year.
Explore the resolutions
We've provided a quick summary of the eight resolutions below, explaining how they work and why they matter! These are in our own words - for the full text of each resolution follow the links in the first column!
|Resolution||Explanation||Item # on proxy card
|Add a board member with environmental expertise (Exxon / Chevron)||This resolution calls for an independent specialist to be nominated for election to the board of each company when vacancies next open up. An independent climate specialist would be able to push for a shift in corporate environmental strategy, standards, and risk assessment. The specialist must have a high level of expertise on climate change, especially regarding the hydrocarbon and renewables sectors,and must be unaffiliated with the company or its employees, directly or financially.||5||11|
|Return capital to shareholders to avoid ‘stranded assets’ (Exxon / Chevron)||To avoid warming of 2˚C, a maximum of 1/3 of fossil fuel reserves can be burnt. Many companies have therefore invested in resources that are unburnable. As the world takes steps to avert global warming, they are likely to become stranded assets – assets that become worthless. Approximately 44% of Exxon’s future portfolio requires an oil price of $75 dollars/barrel to be profitable, which is unlikely. This creates significant risk for investors. One solution is to return capital set aside for these projects to shareholders in the form of dividends and share buybacks. This will maintain the value of the companies for shareholders while allowing them to avoid stranded assets and invest in low-carbon energy solutions.||10||9|
|Annually disclose reserves replacement by category (Exxon / Chevron)||The market value of energy companies is assessed in part by their ability to replace reserves of oil and gas, indicating their ability to continue operating into the future. This creates an incentive to acquire new fossil-fuel reserves, despite the growing risk that they may become stranded assets. This resolution calls for changes in the reporting of reserves replacement, using British Thermal Units (BTUs) rather than volume of oil and gas. This will enable energy companies to count investments in sustainable energy as replacements for fossil fuel reserves.||13||8|
|Report annually on minimizing impacts of fracking (Exxon / Chevron)||This resolution calls on Exxon and Chevron to monitor and report on the environmental and community impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), as well as the steps taken to mitigate them, including: the toxicity of drilling fluid; methane leakage as a percentage of total production; percentage of drilling residuals managed in closed-loop systems; community complaints and their resolution; and practices for identifying and managing radioactive materials hazards.||14||10|
|Annually assess a two degree scenario (Exxon / Chevron)||Exxon and Chevron have both stated that policies to cap carbon emissions to ensure a maximum of 2˚C of warming would be ‘highly unlikely’. Neither company has evaluated its long-term business model in the context of climate change policies aimed at achieving a 2˚C scenario, a significant risk to shareholder value. This resolution necessitates an annual assessment, integrated into existing reporting to shareholders, of the long-term portfolio impacts of a 2˚C scenario. This should evaluate resilience of the company’s full portfolio of reserves and resources through 2040 and beyond, and address the associated financial risks.||12||7|
|Disclose direct and indirect lobbying (Exxon / Chevron)||Exxon and Chevron are members of climate change denial lobbying groups. Annual direct expenditure on lobbying has been in the tens of millions and has not been disclosed, raising the risk that they are expending considerable resources on lobbying inconsistent with long-term goals and shareholder value. Both companies are asked to report annually on: company policy and annual expenditure on direct and indirect lobbying; lobbying decision-making and oversight; and membership in, and payments to, organisations that draft or advocate for model legislation.||9||5|
|Adopt a proxy access bylaw 2016 (Exxon only)||Typically board members are elected by shareholders but can be nominated only by the board or company itself (typically a nomination sub-committee). Proxy access gives shareholders, owning 3% or more of a company for a minimum of 3 years, the right to nominate board members directly. Evidence shows that proxy access makes directors more accountable to long-term shareholders while enhancing shareholder value. Chevron adopted a similar measure in 2015.||7|
|Adopt a policy on imperative for 2 degree limit (Exxon only)||The Board of Directors of Exxon is asked to adopt a policy “acknowledging the imperative to limit global average temperature increases to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, which includes committing the Company to support the goal of limiting warming to less than 2°C.” The resolution does not specify means for pursuing this policy, nor require reporting on progress.||11|
|Set Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals (Chevron only)||Similar to the above resolution, this one asks that Chevron’s Board of Directors adopt long-term, quantitative, and company-wide targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in products and operations in line with the global commitment to limit warming to 2˚C. Chevron is requested to issue a report on its progress by November 30, 2016.||6|