PRI boss takes aim at Exxon

Investors say Exxon's $100m research commitment into greenhouse gas reduction does not go far enough

The United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) has singled out oil and gas giant Exxon for its ‘unwillingness’ to listen to investor demands relating to climate change.

In a 500-word press statement, Fiona Reynolds, chief executive officer of the PRI, said the company had failed to provide investors with sufficient assurances that its strategy is consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The damning comments come as the PRI, together with shareholder lobbying group Follow This continues to demand that oil and gas companies do more to limit the risks of heating the planet from the products that they produce.

“Some may say that Exxon is just one company – but it is not just any company,” said Reynolds in her statement. “The stance it takes on climate has significant influence across the global energy sector as we move towards a low-carbon economy with rapidly falling technology costs.

“For more than a decade, investors have been putting resolutions before Exxon around climate and carbon issues, including aligning its strategy with the Paris Agreement. Some investors are questioning if the board is responding reasonably, asking if it is looking to work with long-term owners on disclosure, transparency and preservation of value through the coming transition.”

Reynolds’ assessment of Exxon’s position comes after the company gave assurances that it was investing $100m in research technologies explicitly designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This, she said, was welcomed but  “doesn’t address investors’ concerns” about the company’s long-term policies.

“Along with many investors, we have noted with concern the recent ruling by the SEC noting that Exxon is not required to let its shareholders vote on setting greenhouse gas targets,” she added.

“Proposed changes to shareholder rights in the US, imposing more onerous requirements on investors that submit proposals for a vote at a company’s AGM, are also concerning, and the PRI is actively engaged with the SEC to support shareholders’ rights.”

A UK spokesman for Exxon told ESG Clarity that all press enquiries relating to climate change were handled by the central corporate press office, adding that he was unable to comment. This article will be updated should a response subsequently be received.