US corporations facing 41 shareholder resolutions on climate change – Proxy Preview

The ninth edition of the Proxy Preview released

US companies are facing 41 shareholder resolutions on climate change in this year’s annual general meeting (AGM) season, according to the ninth edition of the Proxy Preview released today.

“There are 41 resolutions that focus specifically on climate change, with a common theme of disclosure,” the new guide says. “As in 2012, energy efficiency reporting and target setting makes up the biggest chunk.”

Climate change resolutions cover the “looming carbon bubble”, methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing and waste, biomass, flaring, carbon footprint tracking, climate risk transparency, and sustainability reporting.

The preview notes that the Securities and Exchange Commission has approved resolutions for two major banks—JPMorgan Chase and PNC Financial Group—to report on how they consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in their financing practices – “something it rejected just three years ago as ordinary business”.

Also new are proposals at three shale gas firms to report on methane emissions and targets. One of the risk report requests, to CONSOL Energy, raises the question of potentially stranded assets in the firm’s large US coal reserves—an issue highlighted by the campus fossil fuel divestment campaign.

In total investors have filed 364 shareholder resolutions on environmental and social issues at US firms this year – 20 more that at the same point in 2012.

Political spending resolutions account for one-third of all proposals filed so far.The 72-page preview of the US proxy voting season is published by shareholder advocacy group As You Sow and written by Heidi Welsh, the founding executive director of the Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2) and Michael Passoff, CEO of Proxy Impact.

“It looks to be a year of growing intensity”

The review uses the term “sustainable governance” to designate resolutions that relate to how a company addresses a wide variety of sustainability concerns at the board level.

Investors now file about 50% more shareholder proposals on social and environmental issues than 10 years ago – nearly 400 a year. The average support has grown from 11.9% in 2003 to 18.5% in 2012.

“It looks to be a year of growing intensity as leading companies are more open to working cooperatively with shareholder advocates, while laggard companies are creating polarization and reaction from investors,” says As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar.

“This proxy season looks to be extreme and dynamic as issues that have been simmering over the past few years come to a full boil.”

There is a webinar on the report at 1 pm ET/10 am PT today (March 7).