Momentum Building As Companies Agree To Support Climate Lobbying

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Investors See Momentum Building As Companies Agree To Support Paris-Aligned Climate Policy

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Shareholder proponents seek majority votes on climate lobbying proposals at the May meetings of Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC) and Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE).

Companies Support The Proposal On Climate Lobbying

NEW YORK, NY, THURSDAY, APRIL 8TH, 2021 – Building on the groundbreaking majority vote in support of a proposal on climate lobbying at Chevron’s 2020 annual meeting, investor members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility are announcing agreements reached with five companies on similar proposals requesting a report on if and how the companies’ lobbying activities (direct and through trade associations) align with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

These agreements are part of a broader effort by global investors to make climate lobbying a central theme in their corporate engagements. After investor pressure, U.S. and even more European companies have agreed to begin providing the requested climate lobbying reporting and to adopt consistent Paris-aligned policy positions, as they manage their risks and transition to a lower-carbon economy.

ICCR members are making compelling cases to fellow investors for majority votes on their two remaining 2021 climate lobbying proposals at Norfolk Southern ($NSC) and Sempra Energy ($SRE) set for May 13th  and 14th, respectively. These votes are coming just weeks after the Climate Action 100+ initiative issued its first-ever benchmark of key indicators for successful company alignment with the Paris Agreement goals. Benchmark Indicator #7 specifically assesses the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters on their climate policy engagement.

Of the five agreements reached by ICCR members, two were with industry peers of Norfolk Southern and Sempra Energy: CSX (NASDAQ:CSX) and Duke Energy ($DUK). Investors say this begs the question of why the two companies could not make similar commitments to climate policy transparency and Paris-aligned policy positions as their peers.

CSX’s Commitment Commended

“We commend CSX’s commitment to issue a report studying their lobbying on climate policy,” said Tim Brennan of the Unitarian Universalist Association. “Importantly, it will examine the policy positions of each of their trade associations and assess how well they align with the goals of the Paris Agreement. CSX has already committed to science-based targets that are consistent with Paris. Now we will be able to see if their policy advocacy points in the same direction.”

ICCR members also withdrew proposals at AIG ($AIG), Entergy ($ETR), and FirstEnergy ($FE), when the companies committed to change their direct and indirect lobbying activities and policies to better align with the science-based goal of limiting average global warming to well below 2° Celsius.

Each year, companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying to block or delay federal, state, and local legislation and regulation designed to avert the climate crisis. They do this through both direct lobbying and indirectly through trade associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which, despite a recent statement acknowledging the reality of man-made climate change, continues to fight progress on climate-related policies.

As more and more companies and their investors acknowledge the systemic and material risks posed by climate change, investors say business advocacy for strong climate policy is a critical strategy to bring emissions in line with the Paris goals. In the fall of 2020, ICCR members launched an initiative to press a group of 25 companies, both leaders and laggards, to lobby proactively for climate-forward policies.

Request For Norfolk Southern To Allign With Paris Climate Agreement

Said Jeff Perkins of Friends Fiduciary, “We’re asking Norfolk Southern to align its strategies, capital allocation plans, and direct and indirect public policy advocacy with the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit average global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. While railroads are a very efficient form of transportation, Norfolk Southern Company’s cargo, 1/3 of which has been coal, has led it to lobby against climate-forward measures. ‘Business as usual’ scenarios of 3-4 degrees Celsius warming or more will depress global GDP, likely present significant risk to our company’s operations and almost certainly impact investors’ returns.”

“Sempra claims it supports climate goals, yet continues to lobby for policies that promote natural gas and against policies that promote climate solutions, in clear opposition to the Paris goals,” said Lila Holzman of As You Sow. “While Southern California Gas (SoCalGas), a subsidiary of Sempra, has announced a net-zero target, Sempra has also disclosed that it has plans to grow its natural gas footprint, acknowledging that ‘this activity will significantly increase [the] company’s emissions.’ This demonstrates a significant misalignment that the company must address sooner rather than later.”

Additional climate lobbying resolutions filed with Delta Airlines, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66 and United Airlines Holdings, coordinated with Ceres, will also be going to a vote. All investors are urged to vote their proxies FOR these proposals.

Said Holzman, “We are encouraged by the recent actions and promises of large asset managers like BlackRock to vote their proxies in favor of shareholder proposals requesting corporate action on climate change. Collective action on the part of the business and investment communities will be essential to produce the favorable policy environment needed to drive a clean energy economy.”

About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)

Currently celebrating its 50th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300-plus member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $US 2 trillion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. Visit our website and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.