Environmental racism added to As You Sow’s racial justice scorecard

ExxonMobil, Eastman Chemical and Valero had negative scores following the new KPIs

As You Sow has updated its Racial Justice Scorecard for the S&P 500 to include four indicators focused on environmental racism.

Originally launched in March this year with 22 key performance indicators, the scorecard is part of the US-based shareholder advocacy group’s campaign to engage directly with corporations and eradicate the systemic racism perpetuated by corporate policies and practices. The four new indicators specifically focused on environmental racism looks at corporate environmental violations, fines and penalties since 2015, core products and services, as well as corporate actions.

“Systemic racism extends beyond the corporate boardroom, permeating the built and social environments,” said Olivia Knight, racial justice initiative manager at As You Sow.

Overall 39 companies scored below zero, “indicating they are doing more harm to communities of colour than they make up for with positive actions. This metric demonstrates that environmental racism is a core component of corporate racial injustice”, said As You Sow.

In particular, ExxonMobil was flagged as coming “dead last”. The energy giant’s score was attributed, in part, to one of its refineries releasing at least 135 toxic chemicals in Beaumont, Texas, where 95% of the residents are African American.

In response to the As You Sow scorecard, an Exxon spokesperson told RI: “ExxonMobil has a rich history of support for equality, minority involvement in our business, and for minority education and minority-led business development […] our charitable donations benefiting minorities exceed $420m since the late 1990s, nearly $100M of which supported African American issues and organisations.”

Chemical giant Eastman Chemical was also highlighted because of their actions in St. Gabriel, LA, also known as “Cancer Alley”, a plant that is owned and operated by their subsidiary, Taminco.

Energy company Valero also did not fare well due to its previous proposal for a pipeline to connect its refinery in Memphis, TN, to the Gulf Coast with plans to skirt the outside of the predominantly white suburbs to the north, but run seven miles of the line directly through the southwest neighbourhoods “which are 97% Black”.

Eastman Chemical and Valero did not reply to requests for comment. 

Investors with holdings in all three companies include SSga Funds Management, BlackRock and Capital Research & Management and Vanguard. They all declined to comment on individual holdings when contacted by RI, but Vanguard said “we expect company boards to be fully engaged and knowledgeable about monitoring and governing social risks”. 

Knight said: “To hold companies responsible for their activities in perpetuating environmental racism, we must identify and acknowledge the existence and extent of the disproportionate harm that corporate actions inflict on communities of colour. Our scorecard empowers shareholders, customers, and all stakeholders to hold companies responsible for continuing injustice.”