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March 22, 2005
Faith-Based and Environmentalist Shareowners Withdraw Climate Change Resolutions at Six Companies
    by William Baue

The six oil and gas companies commit to measure, mitigate, and disclose data related to global warming, and evangelicals join their faith-based compatriots in concern over climate change.


Last week, shareowner activists announced their withdrawal of climate change resolutions at six oil and gas companies that have taken concrete steps to measure, mitigate, and disclose data on the environmental impact of their businesses. The shareowners withdrew resolutions at Apache (ticker: APA), Anadarko Petroleum (APC), ChevronTexaco (CVX), Tesoro (TSO), and Unocal (UCL), and chose not to re-submit a resolution at Marathon Oil (MRO). The campaign was organized by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors, and the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), a consortium of environmentalist institutional investors.

The development continues momentum from last year's proxy season, when five companies complied with the terms of climate change resolutions, leading to withdrawals or decisions not to re-file. Four of these companies--American Electric Power (AEP), Cinergy (CIN), Southern Company (SO) and TXU (TXU)--prepared and issued reports measuring their ecological footprints and plans to address the financial implications of their contributions to global warming.

The fifth, Reliant Energy (REI), took a different tack. It agreed to expand disclosure of environmental issue assessment in its 10-K securities filings, amend its Board Audit Committee charter to annually review these issues, and post this environmental information on its corporate website.

This year, negotiations between shareowners and companies have resulted in distinct agreements at each company. The agreements, though, do have some common threads with last year's outcomes.

They include acknowledging climate change impacts in securities filings and on corporate websites, assigning board-level responsibility for overseeing climate change mitigation strategy, and benchmarking and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals.

For example, Trillium Asset Management convinced Anadarko to adopt a GHG management plan and collect baseline GHG emissions data beginning in 2004.

"We're pleased to see Anadarko undertaking an inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions for the first time this year and will encourage the company to set reduction targets once the baseline has been established," said Shelley Alpern, Trillium's director of social research and advocacy.

Another common thread is the development of renewable and cleaner energy technologies, as well as carbon sequestration, or removing carbon from the environment.

Anadarko's development of two enhanced oil recovery projects in Wyoming, which will ultimately re-inject about 29 million tons of carbon dioxide into aging oil fields, exemplifies one of the largest carbon sequestration projects in the world.

Climate change resolutions are now pending at only three companies: XTO Energy (XTO), Vintage Petroleum (VPI), and ExxonMobil (XOM), which faces two climate change resolutions. The 2005 AFL-CIO Key Votes Survey, an important annual list of the most significant shareowner resolutions in the opinion of the union, numbers the ExxonMobil climate change report resolution amongst the 28 most important proxy votes of the year.

Concern about corporate exacerbation of climate change is spreading beyond the traditional realm of environmentalist and faith-based shareowner activists. Evangelicals, a Christian group that has not been typically associated with environmentalism in the past, are beginning to embrace the notion of environmental stewardship as a way of honoring the world they believe was created by God.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has adopted a "Creation Covenant" to seek a consensus position on climate change amongst the group. NAE has also issued a document entitled For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility that includes a section on environmental sustainability, which offers a biblical rationale for involvement in the climate change debate.

"We are serious about what we call 'Creation Care,' an effort to build a 'pro-business, pro-environment' coalition to effect positive change on climate change, and other issues," said Richard Cizik, NAE's vice president of governmental affairs.

However, this involvement does not yet extend into the fiduciary realm.

"I do not believe that our pension funds have any guidelines on socially-conscious investing, much less on climate change," Rev. Cizik told SocialFunds.com.

However, Rev. Cizik may be moving NAE in this direction. Cinergy's forthcoming
Annual Report quotes Rev. Cizik as well as other prominent social figures, such as Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT), on environmental issues.

"But as to collaboration with shareholder activists, that is step beyond our current authorization, although I personally would like to sit in and observe such meetings," Rev. Cizik said.

 

 
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