A record number of climate and energy related shareholder resolutions have come to the table in proxy year 2011. In fact, shareholders have filed a total of 66 climate and energy resolutions, according to the environment and investment coalition Ceres. This represents a 50% increase over the 44 filed last year with coal, oil and electric power companies. Resolutions were also filed with building, real estate, financial services and food firms. Shareholders filed resolutions with top companies such as Amazon, Avon, Dr. Pepper, Snapple, Hershey, MGM Resorts and Time Warner.
“Challenges facing the energy sector are greater and more complex than ever,” said Mindy S. Lubber, director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) and president of Ceres. ”Investors are concerned that companies are placing too much emphasis on higher-risk, carbon-intensive strategies and too little focus on viable clean energy opportunities, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleaner fuels.”
The resolutions were filed over a variety of issues including political spending in light of California’s ill-fated Proposition 23. Shareholders filed resolutions with three of the proposition’s top funders: Valero Energy, Tesoro Energy, and Occidential Petroleum, asking the companies to review political spending.
Shareholders filed resolutions with Hershey and Avon asking the companies to source 100 certified sustainable palm oil. Palm oil is in 50 percent of all consumer goods, and demand for it in the U.S. tripled in the last five years. The resolution filed with Hershey by Adrian Dominican Sisters pointed out that many of the company’s products contain palm oil. “As a popular branded food company, Hershey faces significant reputational and supply chain risk by sourcing palm oil that is not sustainably produced,” the resolution stated.
The resolution mentioned the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), formed in 2004 to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products. Hershey has a policy of sourcing palm oil form RSPO members, but RSPO members are not required to sell certified sustainable palm oil. Palm oil is a “a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to deforestation, degradation and conversion of high-carbon peatland, and fires set for establishing plantations,” according to the shareholder resolution.
GHG reduction goals were mentioned in resolutions filed at 27 companies including St. Jude Medical and C.R. Bard. The resolutions filed with the two companies stated that neither reports details on sustainability efforts, and both declined to participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project.
Five shareholder resolutions were filed concerning hydraulic fracturing of natural gas, also known as fracking. The resolution filed with Chevron stated that the company plans to acquire Atlas Resources which was fined for spilling fracking waste in Pennsylvania, and is being sued by a Pennsylvania landowner for alleged pollution of his water wells.
Shareholders filed resolutions with ConocPhillips and ExxonMobil, asking the companies to disclose the risks of oil sands production. Similar resolutions filed during the 2010 proxy season received about 30 percent of the vote.