At the annual meeting in Dallas on 30 May, environmentalists, religious and gay groups which are shareholders in the world’s number one oil company, were soundly defeated in four resolutions, but gained enough votes to keep their proposals on the table at next year’s conference and saw support rise “significantly”.

A proposal to prevent drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, currently a hotly protested issue worldwide (see related story), received the most attention, with more than an 80% increase in support, but was backed by only 9.6% of shareholders. Another resolution calling on the company to change its focus from fossil fuels to a more non-polluting and environmentally-friendly energy mix received 8.9% of the shareholder vote, which although minute, was a 40% increase in support on a similar resolution last year. The third resolution proposing executive compensation commensurate with ExxonMobil’s environmental and socially responsible performance was only supported by 9.5% of shareholders, while another resolution, calling for non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, was also soundly defeated.

Protesters at the shareholder meeting attempted to gain support for a range of controversial projects supported by the oil giant from the Chad-Cameroon pipeline (see related feature), to alleged complicity with human rights violators in the breakaway Indonesian province of Aceh.

However, campaigners saw their increase in support as less of a defeat than the beginning of a road to victory. “Today ExxonMobil lost ground while shareholders and citizens across the globe won some big percentages in increased support on these important environmental, social justice, and workplace resolutions,” commented Peter Altman, coordinator of Campaign ExxonMobil, a grouping of religious and other socially responsible investors. “As the percentages on these resolutions will continue to climb, Exxon Mobil can no longer ignore that there is a movement for change within its corporate boundaries.”

“Until ExxonMobil stops its opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, abandons its call to open the Arctic National refuge for drilling, and invests in renewable energy, we must boycott ExxonMobil,” said human rights and environment campaigner, Bianca Jagger.

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