Climate proxies up

Mar 8, 2009 @ 12:01 am

By Sue Asci

Climate change continues to be important to investors, and they want to know what companies are doing to mitigate the impact and risks associated with global warming.

Shareholder resolutions on the issue of climate change submitted for the 2009 proxy season have hit a record total of 63 to date, which is more than double the number submitted five years ago, according to Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors focused on climate change and sustainability issues.

"I think people are recognizing that it's not just about assessing the risk, but also there are massive opportunities in the global economy related to climate change," said Chris Fox, director of investor programs at Ceres, which comprises 77 investors representing $7 trillion in assets.

The resolutions ask companies to disclose more about what they are doing to address climate change issues.

For the second year in a row, Ceres has created a "watch list" of companies that have been targeted with resolutions because of a failure to engage investors at all.

The coalition recently named nine firms to the watch list. They are Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. of Calgary, Alberta; Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, Calif.; Consol Energy Inc. of Canonsburg, Pa.; Exxon Mobil Corp. of Irving, Texas; General Motors Corp. of Detroit; Massey Energy Co. of Richmond, Va.; Southern Co. of Atlanta; Standard Pacific Homes of Irvine, Calif.; and Ultra Petroleum Corp. of Houston.

A sure way to get off the watch list is to support shareholder resolutions and provide reports about climate change to investors, Mr. Fox said.

While the number of resolutions has been on the rise, support also has increased. The average favorable vote increased to 23.5% last year, from 16.7% in 2003.

"Having at least 20% to 30% sends a strong message to the board that mainstream shareholders are concerned about board oversight of the risk," Mr. Fox said.

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