NEW YORK, NY, THURSDAY, APRIL 28TH, 2022 - In continuation of a successful multi-year initiative, investor members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility are announcing the preliminary outcomes of a group of 21 shareholder proposals filed during the 2022 proxy season requesting a report on how companies’ lobbying activities (direct and through trade associations) align with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Of the original group of 21 proposals, 16 proposals were withdrawn by proponents in exchange for corporate commitments that complied with the proposals’ requests. Currently, only five proposals are up for a vote at 2022 annual general meetings: $UPS (5/5); $GOOGL (6/1); $FDX (Fall TBD), and $TSLA (Fall TBD). A proposal at Honeywell ($HON) which went to a vote on April 25th did not pass.
And note that the proposals at FedEx and Tesla which are scheduled for votes in the fall may still be negotiated off the proxy.
The proposals were filed across a range of industries including energy, utilities, logistics and freight, retail, tech, and banking. These commitments reflect a growing acknowledgment by the corporate and investor communities of the systemic and material risks posed by climate change. Investors say business advocacy for robust climate policies is critically needed to lower emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goal of holding global temperature rise to 1.5°C, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.
An April analysis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it clear that nations have fallen far short in achieving their goals of cutting greenhouse gasses to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Alarmingly, another study in the journal Nature notes that the chief goal of the Paris Agreement is now almost entirely out of reach unless the countries most responsible for driving GHG emissions dramatically and quickly change course.
Said Tracey Rembert, ICCR Associate Program Director for Climate Lobbying, “Society now has a meager 6 to 10% chance of reaching the 1.5 ℃ Paris goal. While much of the public is outraged over the rapid trajectory of the climate crisis, high-emitting companies have spent decades negatively intervening in public policy to delay and derail the needed policies that would bring global emissions under control. Companies often lobby via “dark money” funneled through their business and trade associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, by funding misleading ad campaigns, or by mobilizing junk-science front groups. As companies are largely responsible for a lack of policy action, they must step in to fix it.”
In recognition of the growing importance of climate-aligned lobbying practices to the investment community, in March ICCR joined a global group of investors and investor networks representing over 3,800 members and $130 trillion in assets under managementto launch the Global Standard on Responsible Climate Lobbying to help companies and investors assess and ensure that all climate lobbying efforts are directed towards the attainment of the Paris Agreement goals.
“Companies across sectors are finally understanding that lobbying in favor of climate forward policy is a core component of a holistic climate strategy,” said Laura Devenney of Boston Trust Walden. “The latest IPCC report reinforced how urgently the corporate community needs smart climate-related public policies to advance rather than be stymied by political influence groups. Companies are not waiting - soon we expect more will demonstrate how their lobbying priorities align with global climate goals and how they’re ensuring their trade associations do the same.”
The proposals are part of a broader effort by global investors to make lobbying a central theme in their corporate engagements on the climate crisis. After investor pressure, more and more companies in the U.S., Canada, U.K., E.U., Australia, Japan, and elsewhere are agreeing to provide the requested climate lobbying report and to adopt consistent Paris-aligned policy positions, as they seek to better manage their risks and transition to a lower-carbon economy.
The success of this investor initiative in the U.S., which has largely been coordinated by ICCR and Ceres, has been noteworthy. Of a group of 13 similar proposals filed in 2021, proponents achieved majority votes at five - Norfolk Southern, Delta Airlines, Exxon Mobil, United Airlines, and Philipps 66 - outcomes that could only have been achieved with the support of large asset managers.
“Investors have shown overwhelming support for proposals asking companies to report on how their lobbying activities align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and companies ranging from General Motors to Delta have stepped up,”said Mary Minette of Mercy Investment Services who filed the proposal at UPS. “This season, most of the proposals filed have been withdrawn as companies have agreed to issue climate lobbying reports, but among the last standing is a proposal at UPS. Although UPS has strong emissions goals, it doesn’t acknowledge the strong link between achieving its ambitious climate targets and supportive public policies; in fact, the company supports trade associations and nonprofit organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council that have negative records on climate action.”
Investors point to an agreement reached with Walmart as an example of how companies are beginning to make progress in aligning their lobbying activities with climate-forward goals.
"Walmart was an early leader in setting reduction targets and establishing a transition plan,” said Frank Sherman of Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment. “The company improved its disclosure on lobbying in general and climate lobbying in particular in response to our shareholder proposal. Walmart’s direct climate engagement is limited but mostly positive and its support of the climate provisions in the Build Back Better bill last year and recent support of renewable energy policy in Maryland are good examples. Walmart admittedly has had a positive influence on trade association climate positions such as the Business Roundtable, but it has yet to publish a detailed public assessment of each trade association’s climate policy positions and how well it aligns with the Paris goals and the company’s position."
About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 51st year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300-member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs, and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $4 trillion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. Visit our website www.iccr.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.