According to the study, which was conducted by Ceres, a Boston-based public interest coalition that addresses sustainability challenges, shareholders at companies in the coal, electric and oil sectors filed 41 resolutions, up 50 per cent from the number of environmental resolutions filed at such companies last year.
The resolutions revolve around issues that can have an impact on business transactions now and in the future. They concern companies’ analysis of the financial risks associated with water scarcity and pollution, and companies’ production of sustainability reports. They also address the sourcing of sustainable palm oil and the use of renewable energy.
‘Adjusting to a world profoundly shaped by climate change is a key challenge for all leading companies,’ says Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres. ‘Ensuring that investors are getting timely, material information on climate-related impacts, including regulatory and physical impacts, is essential.’
The recent surge in climate-related concerns takes place as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other groups push greenhouse gas regulations forward.
‘Investors see climate risks as getting more serious, for example, shareholders would like to know what companies plans are in light of these looming regulations,’ says Rob Berridge, senior manager of investor programs at Ceres.
Last week, the EPA established its Clean Air Act Standards for boilers and incinerators in an effort to reduce toxic air emissions.
‘The EPA is certainly gearing up to regulate the flow of carbon dioxide in the US and this is a requirement by the Supreme Court,’ adds Berridge.
At the same time, high profile disasters– such as the BP oil spill and the Massey Energy mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 people– have caused shareholders to hone in on the strategies companies are using to manage business risks.
‘Investors are motivated to see their companies prepare for the future,’ says Berridge. ‘So, investors are filing a lot of resolutions that ask companies about their risks and their techniques to address them.’
‘Pollution is a form of waste and if you are not energy efficient, then you let other companies become leaders in the future,’ says Berridge.
Of the 96 resolutions filed thus far, 12 have been withdrawn after companies made promises to tackle climate change in response to the resolutions.
Some of the companies where shareholders filed climate- and energy-related resolutions are: Dominion, Dynergy, Southern and Xcel and Massey Energy, the coal company responsible for last year’s West Virginia mine blast that killed 29 people. Companies in other sectors with shareholders calling for sustainability measures include: Amazon, Avon, SunTrust Banks, Dr. Pepper Snapple, and Time Warner.