Big business increasingly being held to account on climate from shareholders
Twenty global corporations have set goals to cut GHG emissions and source sustainable palm oil to in response to 150 climate-related resolutions filed by their shareholders this year.
Commitments relating to setting company-wide goals for reducing GHG emissions were secured from 13 companies. An additional 45 corporate commitments were secured related to sustainability reporting, energy efficiency and carbon asset risk.
The companies include Kellogg, General Mills, Mondelez, ConAgra, Panera and Safeway. Most of them are food and beverage firms, supermarket companies and grocery store chains - some of the top 10 purchasers in the $44bn palm oil industry.
Over the past year, suppliers of more than 55% of the world's palm oil have committed to produce or trade 100% deforestation-free palm oil. Investors that secured the palm oil commitments include Clean Yield, Domini, Social Investments, Green Century Capital Management, and members of the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility.
Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital Management, which secured the first deforestation-free commitment from Kellogg's said that companies are "on the hot seat" to reduce their carbon pollution if they want consumer and investor support.
"We expect more companies to follow suit and build sustainable supply chains and protect the environment upon which their businesses and all of us depend," she stated.
This year's record number of climate-related resolutions demonstrates that investors are becoming more aware of the risks and opportunities that climate change poses to their portfolio companies.
One of the strongest commitments came from Colgate-Palmolive following dialogue with Walden Asset Management. In its 2013 sustainability report, Colgate stated: "Given the urgent need for action on climate change ... we consulted with Walden Asset Management to develop rigorous goals for the next phase of our strategy.
"We are pleased to announce our commitment to reduce carbon emissions on an absolute basis by 25% compared to 2002, with a longer‐term goal of a 50% absolute reduction by 2050 compared to 2002."
The data was released by Ceres which directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of over 100 institutional investors with collective assets totalling more than $13T. Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of INCR, helped coordinate filing of the resolutions.
She said: "The successes this season show that when investors set the bar high, the companies in their portfolios strive harder to integrate sustainability into their business practices. These productive investor-company dialogues often help companies build a positive reputation and achieve high returns on investments in greenhouse gas reduction initiatives."
Other commitments resulting from the 2014 proxy season, in which annual shareholder meetings are held, included an agreement from 15 companies to issue comprehensive, annual sustainability reports, and a commitment from five businesses to work with key suppliers to get them to issue annual sustainability reports.