How Shareholder Activism Moved the Needle on Sustainability in 2011

As expected, fracking was in the spotlight this proxy season and investors strongly signaled their concerns as Robert Kropp from and Ceres President Mindy Lubber noted in posts that appeared on GreenBiz.

As You Sow filed four shareholder resolutions on fracking. A resolution involving Anadarko Petroleum Corporate was withdrawn, and the vote percentages for the three others ranged from nearly 30 percent to 42 percent. The high end of that range represents "an extraordinary show of support," the organization said.

In all, nine shareholders resolutions were filed on fracking, including those from As You Sow, according to Ceres. Votes taken in five of the cases demonstrated "substantial support" of about 30 percent to just under 50 percent, Ceres said. Of the four remaining resolutions, three firms -- Cabot Oil & Gas, El Paso Corporation and Southwestern Energy -- joined Anadarko in promising better disclosure about possible consequences of fracking and prompting the resolutions to be withdrawn.

In its report two weeks ago, Ceres said 109 shareholder resolutions were filed this proxy season with 81 firms in the United States and Canada. Ceres tracks and coordinates shareholder resolutions related to climate change, energy, water and supply chain. Ceres' tally includes As You Sow's resolutions involving fracking, coal and chemicals.

Ceres works with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility to coordinate shareholder resolutions and lent assistance to the Investor Environmental Health Network and Green Century Capital Management, which marshaled resolutions on fracking.

Other highlights from the Ceres report include:

• 45 resolutions were withdrawn after companies made commitments about natural gas fracking, water scarcity, coal ash disposal and oil refinery risk management.

• 28 resolutions, another record, were filed with 18 electric power providers.

• Seldom-seen majority votes were logged in shareholder resolutions with three companies:

• 92.8 percent on a demand for sustainability reporting from water infrastructure services company Layne Christensen.

• 52.7 percent on a resolution about coal ash involving Ameren, an electric utility.

• 54.3 percent on a resolution about oil refinery risks and Tesoro, one of the Texas firms that helped bankroll a failed measure to overturn California's landmark climate law last year.


"The strength of this year's proxy season shows unwavering investor concern about how companies are managing the environmental risks of fossil fuel sourcing and the ongoing shift to a clean, low-carbon global economy," Lubber of Ceres said in a statement released with her organization's report.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Jorge Cortell.