A growing number of investors are calling on ExxonMobil to report on the possible impact of climate policies on its business, as shareholders seek to push the world’s largest listed oil company into discussing the implications of a faster shift towards a low-carbon economy than it has projected.
New York State’s pension fund and the Church of England have led a group of shareholders proposing a resolution for Exxon’s annual meeting on May 31 that calls for the company to publish a regular assessment of the implications for its oil and gas reserves of policies to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2C degrees.
The investors say that while Exxon has said it supports the Paris climate accord, which set an objective of keeping the global temperature increase “well below” 2C degrees, it has not fully recognised the potential implications of the agreement.
A similar call at Exxon’s meeting last year was rejected after winning support from investors controlling about 38 per cent of the shares, but the Church of England is hopeful that support has grown.
Investors with total assets under management of about $10tn have made public commitments supporting the proposal, including Hermes EOS, Axa Investment Management, Schroders, Aviva Investors and Legal & General Investment Management.
Calpers, the California state employees’ pension fund, has also sent out a “proxy solicitation”, urging other shareholders to support the resolution.
Thomas DiNapoli, the comptroller of New York State who has responsibility for its pension funds, said Exxon “puts itself and its long-term investors at risk” by failing to acknowledge how countries around the world were pushing ahead with policies to curb their greenhouse gas emissions.
Exxon says that while it agrees with the need to assess the impact of possible changes in policy and technology, it is already producing sufficient analysis, including a report on its views called Energy and Carbon — Managing the Risks.
The Exxon board wrote to shareholders in its statement for the annual meeting that it believed its processes “sufficiently test the portfolio to ensure long-term shareholder value and position the company to maintain a leadership role in energy development”.
However, Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners for England, argues that the company does not do enough to analyse the possible impact of different alternative scenarios on its operations.
Other large oil and gas groups, including BP and Total, have already acceded to investors’ requests for reports assessing the impact of policies limiting the rise in temperatures to 2C degrees. Chevron of the US also last month published an analysis of climate risk, looking at different scenarios.
Mr Mason said: “Exxon is now at the back of the pack in terms of the oil super-majors and their disclosures on climate change.”
Anne Simpson, investment director for sustainability at Calpers, said shareholders’ relations with Exxon had been changed by the success last year of a call for the company to offer “proxy access”, making it easier for investors to nominate directors to the board.
“This changes the dynamics in corporate governance,” she said. “It brings a bracing level of accountability, which is opening fresh channels for dialogue.”