BP’s shareholders overwhelmingly supported a resolution on Thursday that would force the company to disclose some of its climate change-related risks. The shareholder vote was extraordinarily lopsided, with about 98% of shareholders approving the resolution, which had the backing of BP’s chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg.
The embrace of the climate change resolution is being called a watershed event in the history of climate-related shareholder resolutions, which investors large and small have been pursuing since 1999 to try to encourage oil, coal and gas companies to inform shareholders of their climate change-related risks and shift their investments into renewable sources of energy.
Previously, companies from Exxon to BP have spurned such resolutions.
The risks that global warming poses to the business models of companies like BP are clearer now than ever before. Scientists are warning that in order to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, much of big oil’s fuel reserves, which these companies value so highly, would need to be left in the ground, rather than burned to create energy.
The BP vote and support of a similar resolution at Shell show that climate change has moved beyond the world of socially-responsible investing and into the mainstream, says Shanna Cleveland, a senior manager at Ceres, which advocates for more sustainable business practices and open disclosure of climate-related risks to investors, among other goals.
In an interview with Mashable, Cleveland called the BP vote:
“A sea change in the type of support and voting that we’ve ever seen in a climate-related resolution.”
“That is unprecedented… to have a fossil fuel company to actually come out and support a climate-related resolution has not happened before to have a fossil fuel company to actually come out and support a climate-related resolution has not happened before,” she said.
The resolution was filed by a coalition of shareowners in the U.S. and the UK, including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS). It asks BP to report on the risks and opportunities associated with climate change through routine annual disclosures, including ongoing emissions management at company facilities, preparation for the effects of global warming and low carbon research and development strategies and investments.
“What happened today I would classify it as historic, not only passing but getting that number of votes,” Cleveland said.
On Friday, a separate coalition of investors coordinated through Ceres is planning to ask the SEC to strengthen disclosure requirements from U.S.-based fossil fuel companies.
Read more: Mashable