NEW YORK, NY, WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2022 – Last Friday, ExxonMobil released a 2020 Lobbying Report detailing its lobbying oversight, philosophy, positions, and details on its lobbying activities and expenditures.
The report is in response to a shareholder proposal led by the United Steelworkers which received 55% support in 2021. The Steelworkers have led this engagement since 2013, filing nine consecutive proposals that received shareholder support ranging from 21% to 38%. In 2021, support for the proposal from BlackRock and Vanguard tipped it into a majority vote.
Apart from its direct lobbying activities, the company also disclosed details on its indirect lobbying activities and expenditures through the various industry associations, social welfare organizations, and coalitions it supports. The report includes details on state-level lobbying as well as grassroots lobbying expenditures through ExxonMobil’s online grassroots community Exxchange, comprised of supporters willing to engage lawmakers on specific legislation or policy.
Investors have been urging companies to expand lobbying disclosure for over a decade filing nearly 500 proposals since 2011. ICCR members’ shareholder engagements on lobbying are coordinated by Tim Smith of Boston Trust Walden and John Keenan of AFSCME. Numerous investors participated as co-filers of the lobbying resolution at ExxonMobil over the years and multiple dialogues were held between investors and management to discuss ways in which the company could strengthen its lobbying disclosure. This year’s more fulsome lobbying reporting was supported by the ExxonMobil board.
Said Frank Sherman of Seventh Generation Interfaith, whose member co-filed the proposal, “This report is certainly one of the most complete and comprehensive disclosures issued by a company and serves as a model for both investors and companies of what expanded lobbying disclosure should look like. The company responded to each element of the proposal including listing all U.S.-based trade associations and social welfare groups that reported a portion of ExxonMobil’s payments as a lobbying expense which totaled 120 organizations.”
Investors say the disclosures also raise several new questions. For example, in some instances, the fact that federal lobbying activities occurred around specific matters such as plastics is disclosed, but the position the company took on the issue is not. Also noteworthy is a lack of disclosure on how the company might seek to influence public policy through social media or advertising activities which, while not strictly described as “lobbying”, can have a profound impact.
Continued Sherman, “Hopefully, this report will prompt deeper reflection by management and investors on the multiple ways companies can and do influence public policy debates. We look forward to reviewing ExxonMobil’s report on how its lobbying activities align with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, due to be published in the coming weeks, and are hopeful it will be equally comprehensive in its scope and detail.”
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.