Energy & Environment

Climate advocates win seats on Exxon’s board

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ExxonMobil was one of the companies from which the New York State Common Retirement Fund divested. 

Climate advocates gained influence at oil giant ExxonMobil after two candidates nominated by an activist firm won seats on the company’s board on Wednesday. 

Preliminary votes showed two of Engine No. 1’s candidates winning seats after being elected by company shareholders, Exxon said in a statement.

Those two, Gregory Goff and Kaisa Hietala, could be joined by a third, as vote results for Engine No. 1 nominee Alexander Karsner were among those that were too close to call.

Engine No. 1 has called for the company to make more significant investments in clean energy, using stricter approval criteria for new expenditures and an “overhaul” of management compensation. 

In a presentation outlining its case, the firm argued that Exxon did not position itself for creating long-term value and that its rhetoric doesn’t address long-term business risks from emissions. 

The small firm’s victories come after it was reported that their bid would have support from larger firms like BlackRock, the company’s second-biggest shareholder. 

The election serves as a blow to the company’s leadership, who have opposed their campaign. 

“To put it bluntly, we have a plan that will grow earnings and cash flow, pay and grow the dividend, fund future growth and position the company to have a meaningful role in the energy transition. Engine No. 1 does not,” CEO Darren Woods and lead director Kenneth Frazier wrote in a letter to shareholders earlier this year. 

The Exxon statement also said that the board will reconsider proposals from shareholders that got approval of the majority, including one requesting a report on lobbying and another requesting a report on climate lobbying. 

In the statement, Woods welcomed all of the board members who were either elected or reelected, and said the company has “been actively engaging with shareholders and received positive feedback and support, particularly for our announcements relating to low-carbon solutions.”

—Updated at 4:14 p.m.

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