‘Don’t re-elect Exxon board’, Church of England urges over climate record

The Church of England has taken on American oil giant ExxonMobil, calling for its shareholders to back a proposal to kick some directors off its board.

The Church, a major investor through its pension fund, said it would vote against the re-election of the whole board.

Church leaders have teamed up with the New York State Common Retirement Fund in calling on shareholders to assess each director on their own merits, rather than accepting the board as a whole.

“Our voting intentions are, again, a measure of our profound dissatisfaction with ExxonMobil’s approach to climate change risks and the governance failures that underpin it,” said Edward Mason, the Church’s head of responsible investment.

In a letter to Exxon shareholders, Mr Mason called on them to support three proposals.

One would appoint an independent chairman to sit alongside Darren Woods, the chief executive of Exxon who also took over as chairman when Rex Tillerson left to work for the Trump administration.

Shareholders will also be asked to vote on a proposal that would encourage Exxon to report on its lobbying activity.

The move would open up the notoriously secretive oil giant, which campaigners accuse of lobbying the White House to scupper tougher environmental laws.

The calls come after European oil majors have started to recognise the need for more ambitious climate policies.

Although environmental campaigners remain largely unconvinced by their pledges, both BP and Shell have committed to becoming emissions neutral by the middle of the century after heavy investor pressure.

“As the world, ExxonMobil’s peers, and investors confront the climate emergency, ExxonMobil is carrying on as if nothing has changed. It is crystal clear to us that ExxonMobil’s inadequate response to climate change constitutes a broad failure of corporate governance and a specific failure of independent directors to oversee management,” Mr Mason said.

Thomas DiNapoli, trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, said: “We have no doubt that, at this time, ExxonMobil would be better able to form a more thoroughly tested and successful strategy, and to engage effectively with its shareholders, if the company had an independent board chair.”