Investors filed an unprecedented number of shareholder resolutions in 2010 pressing companies to boost their attention to the risks and opportunities posed by climate change. Key results were achieved, including majority votes at coal mining company Massey Energy (53.1%) and water infrastructure services company Layne Christensen (60.3%).
Investors filed a record 101 climate and energy-related resolutions with 88 U.S. and Canadian companies, which is nearly 50 percent higher than last year.
A record 51 resolutions were withdrawn after the companies agreed to positive climate change and energy-related commitments. A resolution with Ohio-based FirstEnergy was withdrawn after the company committed to use dry coal ash storage, and a resolution with Procter & Gamble was withdrawn after the company agreed to report on the percentage of sustainably sourced palm oil procured on an annual basis, beginning next year. Traditional palm oil production frequently involves burning large areas of rainforest and is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Sixteen of the 42 resolutions that went to a vote achieved 30 percent or greater support, nearly three times the number that achieved that level of support in 2009.
”The BP spill is only the latest reminder of why investors are ratcheting up their attention to climate and other environmental risks across their portfolios,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a national coalition of investors and environmental groups that helped coordinate this year’s shareholder filings with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). “This year’s record results send a powerful message that companies should boost their attention to these issues.”
“If our portfolio companies are to provide long-term shareowner value, they need to be proactive, not reactive, in addressing climate change and other ESG matters,” said CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes. “The excessive focus on short-term profits at the expense of all else has proven disastrous and has led to widespread financial issues. But this proxy season’s record-breaking results is an encouraging sign that investors and companies are paying increasing attention to long-term drivers of value.”
CalSTRS, the nation’s second largest public pension fund, manages $132 billion in assets and filed several resolutions this year, including the ConocoPhillips oil sands proposal and the Chesapeake Energy resolution.