AFP, May 27, 2021 — Investors rejected the responses of US oil giants to climate change Wednesday, installing activist board members at ExxonMobil and directing Chevron to deepen emissions cuts.
The dual decisions at the two biggest US oil giants’ annual meetings are clear evidence that addressing climate change has moved from being an environmentalist cause to one championed by mainstream investors.
At ExxonMobil, two board nominees from activist group Engine No. 1 won enough votes to secure board seats. Shareholders also backed a proposal requiring a report on the oil giant’s lobbying activities on climate change.
At Chevron, a majority of investors approved an activist proposal calling on the company to reduce “scope 3” emissions, which encompass energy products.
Earlier in the day, a Dutch court ordered oil giant Shell to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by a net of 45 percent by the end of 2030 following a challenge launched by environmental group Friends of the Earth.
“Today’s Exxon vote sends the unmistakable signal that climate action is a financial imperative,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund.
“Now Exxon’s board has an important responsibility to help the company transform its approach to the climate crisis and energy transition.”
Engine No. 1’s Gregory Goff and Kaisa Hietala secured enough votes to join ExxonMobil’s board, along with Chief Executive Darren Woods and seven other incumbent directors who were reelected, said ExxonMobil corporate secretary Stephen Littleton.
A third Engine No. 1 nominee, Alexander Karsner, was still in contention for a board seat, along with four incumbent board members. Engine No. 1’s fourth nominee, Anders Runevad, was not elected, ExxonMobil said.
The final outcome is “too close too call,” pending further counting of votes, ExxonMobil said in a statement following the meeting.
In an unusual move, ExxonMobil halted the meeting for an hour after the shareholder proposals were presented.
Engine No. 1 released a statement during the pause blasting the interruption as part of the company’s “last-ditch attempt to entrench (the) board and preserve the status quo.”
After the results were announced, Woods congratulated the Engine No. 1 candidates and pledged to work with them to meet shareholder expectations.
The company had launched a lobbying offensive to re-elect its incumbent board, arguing it was taking meaningful action to address climate change.