Church Commissioners and ExxonMobil

Commissioners’ challenge ExxonMobil’s attempt to silence climate change questions

In our post COP21: the Paris Agreement and the churches we commented that Church Commissioners were continuing their proactive engagement with their investment portfolio; on 16 December, they announced that the ‘Aiming for A’ investor coalition, had confirmed that it was calling for the major mining companies to make a step change in their disclosure to investors about their response to the challenges posed to their businesses by the global drive to mitigate climate change.

On 24 February, the Commissioners issued the Press Notice Church Commissioners Among Investors Challenging ExxonMobil’s Attempt to Silence Climate Change Questions followed by a blog Preparing for a low-carbon future.

The later explains:

“The Church Commissioners, along with other investors, have been working with companies to encourage them to [integrate the transition to a low carbon economy into their strategy] …  this is especially important for extractives companies … we think these companies need to set out to their shareholders what they are doing to plan for a low-carbon future.

We’ve been at the heart of the ‘Aiming for A’ engagement initiative, which successfully filed shareholder resolutions at the BP and Shell AGMs last year. These companies were keen to work with us and our partners, and recommended that shareholders approve the resolutions. The companies are now legally required to step up their reporting of their strategic response to the challenges – and opportunities – posed to their businesses by climate change.

[…]

Sadly, not all companies are responding constructively to the urgent need to mitigate climate change. We’ve been working with the New York State pension fund in the US to file a resolution at ExxonMobil in the United States. Rather than working with us to provide the reporting that institutional investors require, Exxon have gone to the US regulator – the Securities and Exchange Commission – to try to get the resolution struck off so that shareholders do not get the opportunity vote on it at Exxon’s AGM later this year.

This week New York State [has] written to the SEC to ask them to deny this request, and to make sure that shareholders can indicate to Exxon’s board their desire for fuller reporting on the implications of climate change policy.

We are extremely disappointed that even after the Paris climate change agreement ExxonMobil has contested the relevance of the resolution we have co-filed. Given the 98% approval for our BP and Shell resolutions, we believe that our desire to see reporting on how ExxonMobil’s business would fare were warming to be restricted to 2 degrees Celsius is widely shared in the institutional investor community. It is a perfectly reasonable ask because without this information investors cannot properly assess the resilience of Exxon’s business strategy.”

Comment

In his blog, Edward Mason, who is Head of Responsible Investment for the Church Commissioners for England, commented:

“Of course, an agreement [i.e. the Paris Agreement] is only one step. It’s now up to governments to put the right policies in place, individuals to think through their own carbon emissions, and companies and investors to integrate the transition to a low carbon economy into their strategy.

Whilst the Church Commissioners are clearly playing their part, the Roman Catholic Church does not appear to have shown great enthusiasm to follow this lead, as we indicated in our post After Laudato si’: Roman Catholic Church.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Church Commissioners and ExxonMobil" in Law & Religion UK, 25 February 2016, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2016/02/25/church-commissioners-and-others-vs-exxonmobil/

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