A coalition of faith and values-driven organizations that view management of their investments as a catalyst for social change say ExxonMobile needs to be more specific about its policy on climate change.
An American Baptist agency criticized efforts by ExxonMobile to exclude a climate change proposal from this year’s proxy ballot, denying shareholders a chance to vote on the proposal at the company’s annual general meeting May 25.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies joined other members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility Feb. 16 urging ExxonMobile’s board to acknowledge a moral imperative to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a threshold adopted by 95 percent of nations that participated in the United Nation’s COP21 conference on climate change last year in Paris.
The Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J., owners of 200 shares of ExxonMobile stock, asked the company last October to “adopt a policy acknowledging the imperative to limit global average temperature increases to 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and commit to support achieving that goal.
“We believe that ExxonMobil should assert moral leadership with respect to climate change,” said the order of nuns committed to liberating people around the world from economic and spiritual poverty. The statement cited Pope Francis in his encyclical letter Laudato Si’ that “the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.”
ExxonMobile leaders say the resolution is “so inherently vague and indefinite as to be materially misleading” and that the company “has already substantially implemented the proposal.”
David Moore, director of investments for American Baptist Home Mission Societies, said the 2 degree benchmark is an attempt to clarify and make more specific Exxon’s long-term climate change policy.
“Much scientific evidence points to warming beyond this limit as particular high risk of serious harm to humanity and ecosystems,” Moore said. “We all must continue to urge Exxon to explain why it won’t accept the 2°C limit, given the goal of long-term climate policy that it endorses.”
A global climate agreement reached in Paris last December commits both rich and poor countries to hold a rise in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to try and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Ten oil and gas companies, including Exxon competitors Total, Shell, BP and Saudi Aramco, are among 81 companies that last year signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge to support the Paris agreement.
ExxonMobile, meanwhile, is under investigation by Attorney Generals in California and New York about whether it failed to report climate change risks to shareholders and lied to the public in order to cast doubt on scientific evidence that carbon monoxide is increasing in the atmosphere and affecting the climate.
The Sisters of St. Dominic said constructive engagement on climate policy “is especially important given Exxon’s historical role in financing climate denial and misinformation campaigns on climate change” and failing to address it “could present reputational risk” for the multinational oil and gas corporation.
Based in Irving, Texas, ExxonMobile is the largest direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. Rockefeller was an American Baptist, and his philanthropic efforts included large gifts to a number of Baptist causes.