ExxonMobil was challenged recently to be transparent in their responsiveness to the effects of climate change. The challenge came from some of its largest shareholders. From the ExxonMobil website: “We are committed to positive action on climate change and dedicated to reducing the risk of climate change in the most efficient way for society.”
Their written statement is obviously clear, the company is committed to reducing the risk of climate change. Apparently, however, their perspective is not as transparent as some of their stakeholders believe.
Financial Activism and ExxonMobil
What better way to hold a company accountable is for large investors to bring up the issue. Right? Back in 2014, John D Rockefeller pulled their philanthropic funds out of fossil fuels. And most recently, the Rockefeller Foundation announced they will divest from fossil fuels, and specifically named ExxonMobil holdings.
Old Fashioned Sit-Ins
Large investors enforcing transparency seems quite different than having a bunch of college students protesting and demanding the University of Massachusetts divest its stock in fossil fuel companies. A five-day sit-in resulted in a commitment from the administration and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the UMass to support a policy to divest from fossil fuel companies.
There are hundreds of campuses worldwide actively discussing or already committed to divestment. Most recently, the Huffington Post, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, to name a few have again created a buzz about divestment of fossil fuel.
So what happened with the recent shareholders’ challenge to ExxonMobil? It didn’t work, the shareholders were defeated and the company president made his statement:
“The reality is there is no alternative energy source known on the planet or available today to replace the prevalence of fossil fuels in the global economy,” Tillerson said during the meeting. “The world is going to have to continue using fossil fuels, whether they like it or not.”
In 2015, The New York Times called the college divestment from the fossil fuel industry controversial, even useless, as it seems divestment doesn’t make a financial dent anyway.
That 521 faith-based, foundations, governmental, colleges and universities, for-profit and NGOs and health institutions, totaling $3.4 trillion divested, isn’t a dent?
What are your thoughts on the issue?
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