I have re-filed my 2019 shareholder proposal with ExxonMobil. The proposal (below) requests the company to disclose the actual costs and benefits associated with its climate actions. I discussed my proposal with ExxonMobil officials last week and they asked for specific disclosure language. Yesterday, I proposed a black-box disclosure (below) for all their climate-related documents and discussions. My disclosure is simply a recognition of emissions reality. ExxonMobil rejected it virtually immediately. As a result, I will get to lecture ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods at the annual meeting in May and shareholders will get to vote on my proposal.
Shareholders request that, beginning in 2021, ExxonMobil publish an annual report of the incurred costs and associated significant and actual benefits that have accrued to shareholders, the public health and the environment, including the global climate, from the company’s environment-related activities that are voluntary and that exceed U.S. and foreign compliance and regulatory requirements. The report should be prepared at reasonable cost and omit proprietary information.
The resolution is intended to help shareholders monitor and evaluate whether the company’s voluntary activities and expenditures touted as protecting the public health and environment are producing actual and meaningful benefits to shareholders, the public health and the environment, including global climate.
Corporate managements sometimes engage in the practice of “greenwashing,” which is defined as the expenditure of shareholder assets on ostensibly environment-related activities but possibly undertaken merely for the purpose of improving the company’s or management’s public image. Such insincere “green” posturing and associated touting of hypothetical or imaginary benefits to public health and the environment may harm shareholders by wasting corporate assets, and deceiving shareholders and the public by accomplishing nothing real and significant for the public health and environment.
For example, amid global warming hysteria in 2002, ExxonMobil publicly announced it would provide Stanford University with $100 million over 10 years for the purpose of “researching new options for commercially viable, technological systems for energy supply and use which have the capability to substantially reduce greenhouse emissions,” according to a November 19, 2002 media release. On what was the money actually spent? What actual progress was made? What were the meaningful benefits produced?
ExxonMobil spends $1 billion per year and has spent $8 billion since 2000 researching, developing, and deploying allegedly low-carbon technologies (including algae biofuels, biodiesel from agricultural waste and carbonate fuel cells) according to a November 3, 2017 Bloomberg News report. ExxonMobil touts its algae activities in paid television advertisements. But what are the actual benefits to shareholders, the public health and the environment of the money spent? By how much, for example, has any of these activities reduced, or can be expected to reduce, climate change?
“We are still 10-plus years away” from deploying algae biofuels and carbonate fuel at scale, a company official told Bloomberg. With many years already invested in algae biofuels and 10-plus years to go, shareholders should be concerned about the viability and sincerity of these touted-as-green and feel-good corporate endeavors.
The information requested by this proposal is not already contained in any ExxonMobil report, including its annual corporate citizenship report which, since it contains none of the actual and significant cost-benefits detail requested here, may itself be reasonably suspected of being an example of don’t-look-behind-the-curtain corporate green propaganda.
ExxonMobil should report to shareholders what are the actual benefits being produced by its voluntary and highly touted environmental activities. Are they real and worthwhile, or just greenwashing?
January 27, 2021 at 09:44AM