A coalition of shareholders, including religious orders and other concerned investors have unveiled global warming-related shareholder resolutions filed at General Motors Corporation and Ford Motor Company, the world’s number 1 and 2 largest automakers. The resolutions ask that the companies measure and report to their shareholders on carbon dioxide emissions from their plants and products, and commit to significantly reducing those emissions by 2012.
These are the first global warming-related shareholder resolutions to be filed at GM and Ford since the companies pulled out of the Global Climate Coalition and helped to trigger its collapse in 1999 and 2000. The resolutions were triggered, in part, by the role that GM and Ford played in fighting both improved federal fuel economy standards and a recently passed California law concerning clean air standards and vehicle emissions. The California law will require automakers to slice their greenhouse gas emissions and to sell emission-free vehicles in California.
Environmental groups with expertise on available auto industry technologies supported the investors’ requests.
“We believe that both General Motors and Ford face material and reputational risk in their current failure to address and reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” said Patricia Daly, executive director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, which represents more than 30 religious orders and Diocesen members from the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. “The high greenhouse gas intensity of U.S. vehicle manufacturers undermines the competitive positioning of U.S. automakers both here and abroad as the world, including their competitors, moves forward to address climate change. This is not only about what is good for the environment. It is about what is good for GM and Ford shareholders.”
"Shareholders have a right to expect GM and Ford to shed their environmental liability by selling cleaner-running vehicles -- instead of being stuck in the mud with yesterday's technology while the Japanese step boldly ahead," said Kevin Knobloch, executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Using available and emerging improvements to conventional technologies, Ford and GM can build a fleet of vehicles that average 40 miles per gallon by 2012. Hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles can boost that average to at least 55 miles per gallon by 2020. These fuel economy gains can be achieved without sacrificing safety, comfort or utility for customers.”
The resolution filed with each company asks “that the Company report to shareholders (at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information) by August 2003 on (a) estimated total annual greenhouse gas emissions (i) from our company's own operations and (ii) from its products; (b) how the company can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its fleet of vehicle product (using a 2002 baseline) by 2012 and 2020; and (c) an evaluation of what new public policies would enable and assist the company in achieving these emission reductions.”
The global warming shareholder campaign saw a surge of interest in 2002, both in terms of filings by coalition members and voting support by institutional investors. According to the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC), an independent firm that tracks proxy voting activity, the number of global warming resolutions tripled in 2002, and support for the ones that came to votes doubled to 18.8 percent.