Sister Patricia Daly watches her shares closely, including that of Exxon Mobil. They will after all provide for her retirement in the not too distant future. But Daly also watches Exxon Mobil closely for other reasons too. For the past 10 years she has been to every annual share holder meeting and put the same question forward; What is Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, planning to do about global warming?
Exxon Mobil does very nicely for its shareholders, including Sister Daly whose order, the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey has a few hundred shares in Exxon Mobil, as part of its $15m retirement fund. Daly however has spent decades campaigning for corporate giants to change their ways for the better in areas of social responsibility and the environment. She has been involved with Dow Chemical, GM, General Electric, Nestle, Ford and PepsiCo. With all she has got somewhere but not so with Exxon Mobil.
Exxon Mobil made nearly $40 billion in profits in 2006, enough to keep its share price at around $85 per share, making it the most profitable American Corporation and having a market value greater than the national budget of France. Today however the trend is for corporations to at least try to engage with the wider concerns of corporate responsibility.
The trouble with Exxon Mobil is that it doesn’t even allow its own shareholders a say in much of the running of the business. Shareholder votes aren’t binding and most board directors are hand picked by management. There’s little chance therefore that environment protestors will get a look in. Daly however plods on and yet again she put forward her concerns at the most recent annual meeting.
This time Daly’s proposal received 31% of the ballots, about 1.4 billion shares, the largest number an Exxon Mobil climate change proposal had ever received. However with oil a national priority and with the Russians, Chinese, Indians and Brazilians all searching out new supplies for their own expanding economies, it’s doubtful companies like Exxon Mobil are going to change their stance on climate change anytime soon.
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