Exxon Mobil Corp’s chief executive on Wednesday said the company would reconsider how it communicates the risks its faces from climate change after shareholders approved a measure calling for increased transparency.
The non-binding proposal passed with 62 percent of ballots cast in a rare defeat for Exxon’s management, which had recommended a vote against the measure.
The company said that it already provides sufficient information on the potential impact of changing technologies and energy demand on its asset portfolio.
The results likely reflected a shift in how big shareholders voted on the measure, as the same proposal last year received only 38.1 percent of shares voted.
Asset manager BlackRock Inc backed the proposal, according to a source familiar with the matter.
BlackRock holds about 6 percent of Exxon shares.
Among other top Exxon shareholders, spokespeople for State Street Corp and Vanguard Group declined to comment on the vote.
“It’s a powerful message,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in an interview.
A New York state public employee pension fund he oversees was one of the proposal’s sponsors.
“They recognized the global community is staying committed to Paris,” he said, referring to the Paris global climate accord.
The proposal asked for Exxon to report on risks its business could face from technology changes and from climate change policies, such as the 2015 accord aiming to keep average global temperature increases below 2°C.
In remarks following the shareholder meeting, Exxon chief executive Darren Woods said the board would reconsider its climate change-related communications, but did not commit to producing the report requested in the proposal.
He also said board directors would review a policy designed to bar them from meeting individually with big shareholders, a practice criticized by the climate proposal sponsors.
“We take the vote seriously, will respond to that feedback and look for opportunities” to communicate, Woods said. “That issue along with others is part of dialogue we have with the board.”
Exxon still faces probes by Massachusetts and New York attorneys general into whether it misled the public and investors by soft-pedaling climate change risks.
Exxon has said the suits are politically motivated, and intended to force it and others to change their positions on climate change.
Protesters, some in skeleton costumes, held up signs saying “Exxon Lied” across the street from Wednesday’s annual meeting.
ConocoPhillips, the world’s largest independent oil and gas producer, also expressed support for the climate agreement on Wednesday.
“It gives the US the ability to participate in future climate discussions to safeguard its economic and environmental best interests,” ConocoPhillips spokesman Daren Beaudo said in an e-mail.
Utility owners, including Consolidated Edison Inc (ConEd) and the energy unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc, on Wednesday said that they would continue investing in gas, wind and solar power as they seek to cut emissions.
“Energy industry economics and investments have been moving for many years toward more renewables, smart technology, energy efficiency and we expect that direction to continue,” ConEd spokesman Michael Clendenin said.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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