In a historic rebuke of fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil, shareholders on Wednesday voted to elect at least two people to the company’s board of directors who were backed by activist investors eager to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
During Exxon’s annual shareholder meeting, an activist hedge fund called Engine No. 1—which “owns only about 0.02%” of the oil company’s stock, according to climate reporter Emily Atkin—ran four of its own director candidates in opposition to the fossil fuel corporation’s hand-picked board members. At least two of Engine No. 1’s candidates won, with the races for additional boardroom seats too close to call as of this writing.
“The outcome is a sign that Exxon’s morally inept and fiscally questionable long-term climate strategy is finally catching up with it,” wrote Atkin.
Journalist Brian Kahn tweeted: “Hard to overstate how much Big Oil is getting its ass kicked today by courts and shareholders alike,” before proceeding to highlight three major victories claimed by climate activists on Wednesday.
In addition to the shareholder revolt at Exxon, 61% Chevron’s shareholders voted Wednesday in favor of slashing carbon emissions, and Royal Dutch Shell earlier in the day was ordered by a court in the Netherlands to reduce its carbon emissions 45% by 2030, compared with 2019 levels, as Common Dreams reported.
“It’s important to understand,” explained a news dispatch by The New Republic about Exxon’s board election, that Engine No. 1 “is fundamentally a financial company, not some kind of environmental justice collective.” The outlet continued:
Environmentalist Bill McKibben emphasized that the election of Engine No. 1-nominated candidates to Exxon’s board happened despite the company’s “strenuous objections.”
Jess Shankleman of Bloomberg News, meanwhile, described the news this way: “A tiny activist investor has just held a proxy referendum on Exxon’s climate plans—and won.”
The Guardian reported that the “rival upstart” received a boost when BlackRock—the world’s biggest asset manager and the second largest shareholder at Exxon with a 6.7% ownership stake—threw its support behind three of Engine No. 1’s four director candidates, all of whom “have a background in fossil fuels but leadership experience in green energy innovation… due to frustration with the company’s refusal to take climate concerns seriously.”
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