After the Security and Exchange Comission denied ExxonMobil’s request to prevent a vote on disclosing all political spending, shareholders will decide on the resolution at the end of May. Another proposal on a dedicated climate policy board is on the table as well.
The 29th of May will be an interesting day for the Big Oil and the environmental community alike. Despite the best efforts of ExxonMobil, the ruling of SEC means that the shareholders will vote on two resolutions with far-reaching implications on that day.
The first proposal has been put forward put forward by the Unitarian Universalist Association, a syncretistic religious group with liberal leanings. If the resolution on the transparency of political spending passes the vote, Exxon has to disclose all its contributions to political actors and organizations on its website.
This semi-annual report on ’political contributions and expenditures (direct and indirect) with corporate funds’ must include the money channeled through umbrella organizations, advocacy groups and trade associations. The electoral and other spendings of these non-profit organizations obscure the true source of this ’dark money’, hence the name.
Another vote on this shareholder meeting could force Exxon to establish a climate policy/strategy committee on the board of directors level. This proposal is the initiation of Arjuna Capital. This dedicated committee would have to ’assess the company’s responses to climate related risks and opportunities, including the potential impacts of climate change on business, strategy, financial planning, and the environment.’
Exxon states that the relevant policies and political spending are already public. UAA noted that this applies only to the direct contributions to candidates, candidate committees, PACs and party committees, the money run through non-profit organizations is not disclosed.
The fossil-fuel firm argues that a committee with a broad mandate already covers climate change through the company’s environmental performance. Arjuna Capital counters this argument that the charter of the company does not mention climate change specifically and that particular board has only one climate expert.
Shareholders will vote on the two resolutions on the 29th of May, in Dallas. The SEC had blocked a similar resolution on Exxon filed by Arjuna Capital and As You Sow, another shareholder engagement group to promote corporate social responsibility, last year and another one in 2015.