Corporate Shareholders Vote on Rising Number of Climate Resolutions

BOSTON, Massachusetts, May 11, 2007 (ENS) - Investors have filed 42 global warming resolutions with U.S. companies as part of the 2007 proxy season, when corporations hold their annual meetings of shareholders. This figure is nearly double the number of climate-related resolutions filed just three years ago.

The global warming resolutions were compiled by CERES, a coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest organizations working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change.

Seeking greater disclosure from companies on their responses and strategies to climate-related business trends, the resolutions were filed by state and city pension funds and labor, foundation, religious and other institutional shareholders, who collectively manage more than $200 billion in assets.

Some of the resolutions at these companies are not proceeding to a vote either because the proposal was withdrawn by shareholders after a satisfactory pledge by the company to implement the request, or because the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission excluded the proposal on technical grounds.

While the resolutions can be filed and brought up for a vote, often they are rejected by shareholders, as Ford Motor Company shareholders did Thursday.

In the wake of General Motors’ endorsement of a national climate change policy calling for a 60 to 80 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, some institutional investors filed a proposal calling on Ford to do the same.

The proposal asking Ford to adopt "quantitative goals for reducing total greenhouse gas emissions from the company's products and operations" garnered only 14.12 percent support of the shareholders.

"It is crucial for corporations to engage in the discipline of establishing reduction goals for products and operations in the near term," said Caldwell Dominican Sister Patricia Daly, OP executive director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment and lead filer of the shareholder resolution with Ford. "Targets for 2050 are meaningless unless companies acknowledge that a strategic plan needs to be in place in the short term."


The bottom line has so far determined the fate of global warming resolutions at this season's shareholders' meetings. (Photo credit unknown)
CERES President Mindy Lubber also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a $4 trillion network of investors focused on the business impacts of climate change. She had hoped Ford shareholders would approve the proposal.

"Winning the support from the nation’s largest automaker for mandatory national legislation is a big shift in moving policymakers and our economy towards a low-carbon future," Lubber said. "Now we’d like to see the same commitment from the country’s second-largest automaker.

"By supporting a tough national policy and setting goals to reduce tailpipe emissions from its products, Ford would send a strong message to investors that it is ready to protect its global competitiveness by taking the steps necessary to provide cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles that the world is demanding," she said.

The shareholders of other corporations have already rejected climate-related resolutions this season.

Only 10 percent of Whole Foods shareholders supported a resolution on March 5 that requested the company to "assess its response to rising regulatory, competitive, and public pressure to increase energy efficiency" and report to shareholders by July 1, 2007.

Only nine percent of Chevron shareholders supported such a proposal on April 25.

On April 27, the shareholders of energy company Dominion Resources voted 22 percent in favor of a resolution which requested a board-reviewed report on how the company is responding "to rising regulatory, competitive, and public pressure to significantly reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions from the company's current and proposed power plant operations."

Similar resolutions have been filed and are pending with General Motors, ExxonMobil and Southern Co., Allegheny Energy, TXU, and Massey Energy, which are among the largest greenhouse gas emitting companies in the country.