Investors submit unprecedented amount of climate resolutions for North American companies, setting new record – Reuters

Investors submit unprecedented amount of climate resolutions for North American companies, setting new record – Reuters

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By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) – A record 263 climate-related shareholder resolutions have been filed so far this year for North American corporate annual meetings, a new tally showed on Tuesday, as proponents adjusted their wording to get support.

Officials at Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit, said the trends they’ve seen show that investors and business leaders remain interested in combating rising global temperatures, despite a decline in support for the measures from large asset managers.

They highlighted a resolution that gained 57% support at Jack in the Box (NASDAQ:) on March 1, asking the restaurateur to report certain greenhouse gas emissions and its goals for reducing them. The resolution said rival McDonald’s (NYSE:) was already doing such reporting and called Jack in the Box’s efforts “sporadic.”

Such company-specific details can help influence top money managers, said Kirsten Snow Spalding, vice president of Ceres Investment Network, an arm of the organization.

In formulating their resolutions, “investors become much more specific about the specific business case,” Spalding said in an interview.

Jack in the Box had opposed the proposal, calling it premature pending more clarity on new state and federal disclosure rules. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

Shareholder resolutions related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics have dominated various corporate meetings in recent years, but have gained less traction since 2022.

Merel Spierings, a senior fellow at the Conference Board, a nonprofit research and business organization, said she expects support for environmental resolutions to continue to decline as investors become complacent. as companies have published more details on the ESG impact of their operations.

But results like Jack in the Box’s show that “investors continue to exercise discernment” and are willing to support certain resolutions, Spierings said.

Ceres, based in Boston, says it hosts investor conversations. It has been targeted by US Republican politicians who say it appears to facilitate potential antitrust violations.

Proposals related to climate and other environmental topics make up the largest share of ESG proposals tracked by the Sustainable Investments Institute in a separate report. Partisan shareholders have already reached agreements to withdraw 56 of the resolutions so far this year, according to Ceres, compared to 83 such agreements in 2023 and 116 in 2022.

For example, New York Comptroller Brad Lander, who oversees workers’ retirement assets, last week outlined agreements with JPMorgan and Citigroup to disclose comparative details of their low-carbon energy loans and for fossil fuels.

U.S. securities regulators made ESG resolutions easier for companies to vote on in late 2021. Others were later filed, but the ruling was cited by Exxon for allowing too many topics voting.

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