Investors want companies to distance themselves from US Chamber over climate change

Letter to top executives from 60-strong investor group

A group of more than 60 investors with combined assets under management of over $320bn (€284.3bn) have written to leading US corporations urging them to distance themselves from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to President Obama’s new Clean Power Plan.

The government’s Environmental Protection Agency’s unveiled the plan last month in a bid to combat climate change but the investors say the Chamber is doing its best to thwart it. The Chamber and the National Association of manufacturers have indicated they plan to sue to block the new rules.

The investors have written to around 50 companies that are on the board or are prominent members of the Chamber, including AT&T, Chevron, Deloitte, Dow Chemical, Emerson Electric, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor Company, Google, IBM, Intel, JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, United Parcel Service, and Verizon.

The letter – which is not calling for companies to leave the Chamber – urged companies to address any misalignment between their own positions and actions on climate change and their funding of the Chamber’s actions against the plan.

The investors urged firms to “privately state” their position on climate change to senior Chamber management and ask them not to sue the EPA. Executives are asked to team up with like-minded members to urge the organisation to accurately reflect its members’ views.“In the interest of protecting long-term shareholder value, it’s high time for companies to stop acquiescing and step up in support of plausible approaches that will move the United States toward a carbon constrained society,” said Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier.

“To do otherwise, amounts to a penny wise and pound foolish stance as if the business implications of climate change start and end at a company’s doorstep.”

Investors are increasingly zeroing in on companies’ lobbying and public policy advocacy on climate change. The Principles for Responsible Investment recently launched an investor statement on corporate climate lobbying. And the environmental data body the CDP asks respondent companies via its questionnaire to answer specific questions about their lobbying on climate change both directly and through third parties.

Tim Smith, Director of Environmental, Social & Governance Shareowner Engagement at Walden Asset Management was one of the leaders of the new initiative.

Among the letter signatories are pension funds including State of New York and State of Connecticut; religious investors such as the Church of England, Dignity Health, Mercy Investment Services, and United Methodist General Board of Pension & Health Benefits; foundations including the Merck Family Fund, Tides Foundation, and Wallace Global Fund; non‐governmental organizations such as Oxfam, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists; and investment firms such as Calvert Investments, Domini Social Investments, and Walden. Link