By Gabriel Malek and Russell Heller
In the wake of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, we want to direct everyone’s attention to an important development that occurred yesterday that we were able to witness in person. Board Co-Chairs Gabriel Malek and Russell Heller attended Exxon Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Dallas, TX to represent the Dwight Hall SRI Fund after it co-filed a shareholder proposal with the United Steelworkers Union regarding lobbying disclosure. Our lobbying proposal received 27.4% of votes cast, an increase from 25.8% last year. Perhaps more newsworthy was the performance of another proposal, Item 12, which called for Exxon to report how it is adapting to a low-carbon economy. The resolution won 62.3% of votes cast, becoming only the second resolution to ever pass at Exxon and the first climate-related proposal to garner majority support. Please refer to the following article for more information: http://www.reuters.com/…/us-exxonmobil-climate-investors-id…
We mention this development to remind everyone that hope is not entirely lost. The result of this shareholder vote, as well as the strong performance of our resolution, indicates that financial markets and the private sector are actively concerned about climate change even if President Trump remains ignorant. The resolution would not have garnered 62.3% of votes without the support of large institutional investors such as Vanguard and BlackRock, firms that usually represent the prevailing sentiment of the private sector and almost always vote shares with management.
Keeping this progress in mind, we also want to recognize shareholder activists’ decades of hard work. Item 12 did not magically gain 62.3% approval overnight: socially responsible investors like Sister Pat Daly spent years reworking the resolution and campaigning on its behalf, slowly gaining more and more votes at every annual meeting until yesterday’s notable triumph. We were lucky enough to sit alongside some of these activists and share in their joy. Friends concerned about climate change and any other issue - remember that change can come from both the public and private sector. If the President remains obstinate or if your representative in Congress turns a blind eye to what you consider important, contact a relevant company’s investor relations official and voice your concern. Shareholder activism, like most forms of civic engagement, is often grueling, thankless work, but 62.3% would not have been reached yesterday without it.
Though yesterday's meeting proved to be a landmark moment for shareholder engagement and activism, our work is far from complete. During a scheduled comment period set aside for shareholders to voice concerns and ask questions to Exxon CEO Darren Woods, we were not called upon to offer our thoughts and request a response from Mr. Woods. Though disappointed, especially since Russell had travelled across the country to attend the meeting, we decided to record our statement immediately after the meeting concluded and have posted a video of our comments to Facebook. We ask that you watch and share the video until we receive a response from Mr. Woods.
Please contact us if you would like more information about The Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund. We also encourage you to check out our video at http://bit.ly/2qLTvCv, as well as the bounty of resources that can be found on these three sites: http://www.iccr.org/ , http://www.ussif.org/ , and http://tricri.org/