Shareholders of ExxonMobil and Chevron — the United States’ top two oil companies — voted down proposals aimed at getting the companies to focus a little more on climate change this week.
One of the proposals would have added an independent director with experience in climate change to the boards of both companies. In corporations like Exxon and Chevron, an independent director sits on the board but is brought in from outside of the company. According to Reuters, that proposal got about 20 percent of the shareholders’ votes at both companies.
Chevron shareholders, however, did pass a measure that would allow shareholders with stakes of at least 3 percent to nominate independent directors. That measure was submitted by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, with the idea that shareholder concerns about climate change weren’t being addressed at big oil companies. Chevron will still need to approve the resolution for it to go into effect, but if it does, it means that shareholders could elect a director who’s concerned about climate change, and that director would be able to lend his or her opinion and expertise on board decisions.
A few other climate-related proposals were also voted down by shareholders, as InsideClimate News reports. One that would have prompted the companies to develop a report on the effects of fracking operations got a 27 percent vote at Chevron and a 25 percent vote at Exxon. Another would have prompted Exxon to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That proposal, which was sponsored by the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey, got less than 10 percent of the shareholders’ votes.
The American oil companies’ shareholder decisions on the climate change measures put them at odds with some European oil companies, which adopted measures on climate change earlier this year. Chevron Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Watson spoke about his unwillingness to join the European companies, including BP and Royal Dutch Shell, at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting Wednesday.
“We don’t intend to participate in that coalition,” Watson said. “We think we can make our statements, and our statements speak for themselves.”
Exxon Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson also voiced his disapproval of Exxon engaging in climate-friendly efforts similar to BP and Shell’s, as the Seattle Times reports.
“No, thank you, that would not be us,” Tillerson said Wednesday. “We’re not going to be disingenuous about it. We’re not going to fake it. We’re going to express a view that we have been very thoughtful about. We’re going to express solutions and policy ideas that we think have merit…speaking out to be speaking out about it doesn’t seem particularly helpful to me.”
Earlier this year, BP shareholders passed a resolution calling for the company to provide information on its “preparation for the low carbon transition.”
“At BP we have consistently advocated for stronger government action and have been open and transparent about our environmental impact,” group chief officer Bob Dudley told shareholders in April. “The challenge ahead is to make the case for the necessary role of fossil fuels, and further transparency supports that case.”
It was a major step for the oil company, but that’s not to say that oil companies — and the fossil fuel industry in general — are suddenly changing their minds on the dangers their product poses to the environment. Chevron, Exxon, and BP are among the 90 companies that have contributed two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions that have caused the climate change of the 21st century.