Historic year for green investors

Investors engaging with North American companies on climate change financial risks achieved major breakthroughs in the 2009 proxy season according to a recent report by environmental think-tank, CERES.

A record 68 climate-related shareholder resolutions were filed by investors this year. Of the 68 resolutions filed, a record 31 resulted in company agreements and withdrawal of the resolutions. Twenty-eight resolutions went to a vote at this year’s corporate annual meetings; six resolutions were omitted by the SEC and three failed to reach a vote for technical reasons.

Six of the 28 resolutions that went to a vote achieved 30 percent or greater support, including one filed with coal company Massey Energy that received 45.6 percent support, or $458.1 million in shares. The resolutions were filed by state and city pension funds, foundations, and religious, labor and other institutional shareholders which collectively manage more than $300 billion in assets.

The 2009 global warming resolutions sought increased energy efficiency, as an important driver of bottom-line savings for companies; GHG emissions reductions; and greater disclosure from companies on their strategies for addressing climate-related risks and opportunities. The resolutions were filed by state and city pension funds, foundations, and religious, labor and other institutional shareholders. The filers collectively manage more than $300 billion in assets.

According to CERES, a coalition of investors and environmental groups that helped coordinate this year’s shareholder filings along with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), the key highlights of the 2009 proxy included:

  • Following a 51.2 percent majority vote in May, IDACORP agreed to adopt GHG reduction goals by year’s end, issued its first RFP (request for proposal) for a wind farm and submitted a smart grid proposal to utility regulators;
  • Chevron, which investors had placed on a Climate Watch List last spring, agreed in May to develop and disclose a business plan setting an annual GHG emissions reduction target for its operations, and to track emissions from its products;
  • NV Energy (formerly Sierra Pacific Resources), after agreeing to provide expanded disclosure of its strategy to address climate change, announced it would increase its renewable energy generation and abandon a 1,500-megawatt coal plant;
  • Citigroup agreed to establish a due diligence process for mountain top removal (MTR) coal mining related loans and to consider shareholder input in the development of that process; and
  • Pulte, the nation’s largest homebuilder, agreed to establish quantitative emissions reduction goals for its operations.

“Investor pressure is prompting more companies to see the value of making their businesses more climate-friendly,” said Mindy S. Lubber, president of CERES.  “By measuring and lowering the carbon footprint of their operations and products, these companies will have a distinct advantage as the global economy shifts to cleaner energy sources.”

Investors also filed resolutions with 27 companies asking them to provide company-specific sustainability reports detailing how they are managing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues beyond climate change. Overall this proxy season, more than a dozen North American companies have committed to producing a first-time sustainability report.

Links

 Highlights from the 2009 Climate Change Proxy Season

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