Today’s record-setting 98% vote for a climate-related proposal by General Electric shareholders sent a clear message that investors are determined to see companies’ transition plans to cut emissions to net zero across business lines and products. It is a landmark vote that speaks to the power of investor engagement through Climate Action 100+, said the Rev. Kirsten Snow Spalding, Senior Program Director of the Ceres Investor Network at Ceres.
The proposal – which was also supported by General Electric management – seeks information on whether and how the company will meet Climate Action 100+ Net Zero Company Benchmark metrics on reducing greenhouse gas emissions across its operations and products, so called Scope 3 emissions. It was filed by As You Sow. The preliminary vote count at today’s annual meeting was 98% in favor of the resolution.
“Investors know that the climate crisis is an existential challenge to our economy and to humanity. The Climate Action 100+ Net Zero Company Benchmark helps companies measure and manage what they need to do to reach net zero emissions and improve their governance of climate risks and opportunities,” Rev Spalding said. Ceres is one of the founding partners of Climate Action 100+. “GE management was wise to favor requiring detailed accounting of its progress on Scope 3 emissions reductions, the largest segment of emissions. Both GE management and shareholders understand the stakes our economy faces”.
Climate Action 100+ is the world’s largest investor climate initiative with 575 investors managing a combined $54 trillion in assets The initiative calls on the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitting companies and other influential companies to work toward – and disclose progress on – reducing emissions to net zero, improving climate governance and providing specific climate related financial disclosures. In March, Climate Action 100+ released a Net Zero Company Benchmark of the 167 focus companies on the progress they’ve made towards the initiative’s goals.
Today’s resolution at GE noted that, “while GE has committed to achieve carbon neutrality for its facilities and operations by 2030 (Scope 1 & 2), it has not reported an ambition to reduce the largest component of its GHG emissions — its scope 3 product emissions – an important gauge of whether and how it is reducing climate risk and capitalizing on low carbon opportunities.”
The resolution asks the GE board to produce a report evaluating and disclosing how and if the company has met the criteria of the Benchmark indicator and whether it intends to revise its policies to fully respond to the indicators.
Management recommended to shareholders that they support the resolution – an unusual move that further underscores the importance of climate action in today’s rapidly changing economy. As the transition to a just net-zero economy accelerates, companies know they must take bold and decisive action.
Also Tuesday, at Imperial Oil’s annual meeting, 58% of independent shares (and about 17% of total shares) were voted in favor of a Climate Action 100+ flagged resolution asking the company to set a net-zero emissions goal. Imperial is about 70% owned by ExxonMobil which voted against the proposal, bringing the final tally to a loss.
“Imperial Oil claimed it is “premature” to set long-term climate targets before identifying clear steps to get there. Yet at this year’s annual meeting, the majority of Imperial’s non-Exxon shareholders disagreed, sending a strong message calling for climate commitments from the oil and gas company,” said Andrew Logan, Ceres Director of Oil and Gas.
Climate Action 100+ flagged resolutions are also up before shareholders this week at Bunge Ltd, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, On Saturday at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting, 38.8% of independent shareholders and 25.1 % of total shareholders voted in favor of a proposal seeking a report on physical and transitional risks the company faces.
About Climate Action 100+
Climate Action 100+ is an investor initiative to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change. More than 570 investors with $54 trillion in assets under management are engaging companies on improving governance, curbing emissions and strengthening climate-related financial disclosures. The companies include ‘systemically important emitters’, accounting for two-thirds of annual global industrial emissions, alongside others with significant opportunity to drive the clean energy transition. For more information, visit: www.ClimateAction100.org and follow: @ActOnClimate100.
Ceres is a nonprofit organization working with the most influential capital market leaders to solve the world’s greatest sustainability challenges. Through our powerful networks and global collaborations of investors, companies and nonprofits, we drive action and inspire equitable market-based and policy solutions throughout the economy to build a just and sustainable future. For more information, visit ceres.org and follow @CeresNews.