Climate change focus in US proxy season

Almost 100 companies hit with 110 shareholder resolutions on climate

As concern grows among institutional investors in the US over climate change, public companies are starting to feel the heat.

Investors filed some 110 shareholder resolutions targeting 94 companies in the US 2013 proxy season aimed at combating climate change, water scarcity, and sustainability reporting, according to investor coalition and lobby group Ceres.

Investors withdrew more than 40 of the resolutions after the companies targeted agreed measures to lower greenhouse gas emissions, soften the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and curb gas flaring, Ceres says.

Resolutions that went to vote regarding methane gas reduction received support of as high as 38 percent, and first-time resolutions on so-called carbon bubble reporting – the impact of carbon regulations on the use of corporate fossil fuel reserves – received support as high as 22 percent.

‘The strength of this year’s proxy season shows unwavering investor concern about how companies, especially energy companies, are managing the profound climate-related risks of fossil fuel production, including traditional and unconventional oil and gas extraction,’ Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, says in a press release.

‘Investors saw especially important progress in tackling flaring, hydraulic fracturing and methane emission impacts, all key contributors to climate change.’

The resolutions were filed by investors who manage a combined $500 bn in assets, including Green Century Capital Management, Trillium Asset Management, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the New York State City Comptrollers’ Office, Ceres says.

As part of agreements reached with shareholders, online retailer Amazon promised to address issues raised regarding energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions and other areas, while Cabot Oil & Gas said it would address a resolution regarding the toxicity of fluids used in fracking and Citrix Systems promised to address a resolution on energy use management reporting.

Among resolutions that came to a vote, 8.8 percent of investors at Berkshire Hathaway voted in favor of greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, 7.6 percent voted for oil company Chevron to formulate plans to mitigate climate-related risks, and 29.4 percent of shareholders of ConocoPhillips voted for the oil company to set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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