Shareholders of the oil giant ExxonMobil pushed through a resolution on climate change at the company’s annual general meeting yesterday despite strong opposition from the board of directors. The motion, tabled by the Church Commissioners, the financial arm of the Church of England, with the New York State Comptroller, will require the company to provide annual reports showing how the business will be affected by global efforts to reduce climate change.
The moves comes as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to signal whether or not his administration will pull out of the Paris Agreement, in which global political leaders agreed efforts to cap global temperature rises at two degrees Celsius.
A similar motion last year was rejected when only 38 per cent of shareholders supported the motion. This week, the motion won the support of 62.3 per cent of shareholders.
In a speech to shareholders, the Church Commissioners head of responsible investment, Edward Mason, criticised the company’s non-executive directors for their stance. He highlighted that they had supported climate change policies in their main businesses, including Xerox, Merck & Co, and Johnson & Johnson.
He asked: “Members of the board, do you leave your understanding of climate change at the door when you attend ExxonMobil board meetings?”
Speaking later in response to the vote, Mason said: “This is a historic vote—despite strong opposition from the board, the majority of Exxon’s shareholders have sent an unequivocal signal to the company that it must do much more to disclose the impact on its business of measures to combat climate change.
“We are grateful to all of the investors who supported the proposal, and we call on the company to begin urgent engagement with shareholders on how to bring its disclosures in line with those of its peers.”
The co-filer of the motion, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, described the vote as “an unprecedented victory for investors in the fight to ensure a smooth transition to a low carbon economy.”
The motion was supported by a raft of institutional investors, including AXA Investment Management, BNP Paribas Investment Partners, HSBC Global Asset Management, and more than 30 faith-based institutional investors.
The Church Commissioners manage the Church of England’s historic endowments, a fund now valued at some £7.9 billion ($13.75 billion Cdn).