ExxonMobil avoids shareholder resolution on plastics pollution after agreement with investors

Resolution withdrawn as company makes agreement on public reporting process

Oil giant ExxonMobil has avoided having to face a shareholder resolution on plastic pellet pollution after an agreement with investors – though the issue will go to the vote at peer companies like Chevron and Philips 66.

Plastics pollution has risen up the agenda of investors, partly in the wake of the Blue Planet TV programme, and was the subject of a special RI feature earlier this year.

Now, according to a letter from investor group As You Sow to Exxon this month, it has decided to withdraw its proposal “in recognition of the company’s statement delivered to proponents agreeing to a public reporting process for plastic pellet spills and remediation” (see SEC correspondence here).

As You Sow had filed the resolution on behalf of a private shareholder called Noel Karasin.

It had called for the company to issue an annual report to shareholders disclosing “trends in the amount of pellets powder or granules released to the environment by the company annually”. It would “concisely assess the effectiveness of the company’s policies and actions to reduce the volume of the company’s plastic materials contaminating the environment”.Exxon had tried to get agreement from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to omit the resolution from its AGM agenda, saying it was seeking to “micromanage” the company. Exxon said it is a member of voluntary industry group called ‘Operation Clean Sweep’ and that it had had no reportable releases of plastic pellets in the last three years.

“We reached out to start a dialogue but received no response”.

The agreement represents something of a win for As You Sow, given that – according to a letter last December from its Senior Vice President Conrad MacKerron to Exxon’s investor relations department – “we reached out in recent months to start a dialogue but received no response”.

But peer companies like Chevron and Phillips 66 will face a vote on an similarly-worded resolution from As You Sow at their AGMs, following SEC rulings that they may not omit the proposals. The same resolution is pending at Dow DuPont.