They probably found it pretty laughable at headquarters when the resolution arrived, signed by DeWitt Sage and me, asking ExxonMobil to disclose to shareholders its plans for dealing with fossil-fuel reserves in a future when political regulations and market forces could significantly reduce their value. The resolution came swiftly back, rejected. But Sage and Blaine, who were merely agreeable front men for the investment strategists at Arjuna Capital, persisted – and, to our amazement, prevailed. It was an ingenious – and important – argument. We approached ExxonMobil not as tree huggers or monkey wrenchers, but as investors concerned about our investment. Exxon carries its reserves as huge assets on its books – even as studies increasingly show they will lose significant value in a carbon-constrained world. The oil and gas may never even get out of the ground, which would be good for Earth’s future but not for Exxon’s shareholders. What, we asked, is the company’s long-range plan to address the risk to these “stranded assets?”
In case you missed it in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Reuters (which headlined a “landmark agreement), I am pleased to announce that Arjuna withdrew our proposal after Exxon agreed to report publicly on its plan to deal with its carbon asset risks. This doesn’t yet mean Exxon will reduce its carbon footprint – there’s also a shareholder proposal on that – but the world’s largest energy company is the first to consent to this unprecedented level of transparency. Thanks to Arjuna.