Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Exxon facing shareholder revolt over climate change

From the Guardian

A shareholder revolt at ExxonMobil led by the billionaire Rockefeller family has won the support of four significant British institutional investors who will call on Monday for a shakeup in the governance of the world's biggest oil company.

Exxon is facing a rebellion from its investors over its hardline approach to global warming. The firm has refused to follow rival oil companies in committing large-scale capital investment to environmentally friendly technology such as wind and solar power.

Exxon maintains that present green technologies are not financially viable. But critics on Wall Street and in the City fear that the company's reluctance to explore alternative energy will prove to be bad business judgment in the long run as rivals such as BP seek to capture public affection by re-branding themselves as environmentally sensitive enterprises.

Comment: Exxon is going to continually find itself in this sort of pickle with powerful shareholders. It is now very fashionable for corporations to “green” their image in order to sell themselves as being environmentally responsible. Yet, one must ask, is it to Exxon’s benefit to divert an ever larger share of resources to fund environmentally friendly technology, just for branding purposes, as opposed to improving its ability to drill, deliver, and produce petroleum? I know what my greenie friends would say—absolutely. However, since the search for the magical alternative fuel that will replace oil has been going on for 30 years, I seriously doubt that Exxon increasing funds to that end will have an impact except, of course, for making itself look environmentally sensitive. It’s expensive being “green.”


Erica said...

Well, they're a company so their goal is to make money, right? One would hope that social pressures ought to be strong enough to make it such that contributing to environmental causes would improve their image to the point where it was in their financial best interest to do, thus aligning incentives.

A girl can dream, no?

VH said...

Interesting point. However, similar corporate reforms haven't really helped the image of other oil giants that have implemented them. Notably, BP and Royal Dutch Shell. They are still viewed as blood sucking leeches by many who want to punish the companies due to world crude prices.