Oil Companies’ Shareholders Reject Activist Proposals

  • Published on May 30th, 2008

chevron_vote.jpgChevron’s annual stockholder meeting held at company headquarters in San Ramon, California, has become a magnet for criticism in recent years as environmental and human rights groups use it to voice their grievances with the company.

This year was no different, as protesters with HAZ-MAT suits and paper brooms labeled “Clean Up Chevron” greeted shareholders at the company’s front gate Wednesday morning. Inside the meeting, speakers from as far away as Africa told shareholders that Chevron has contaminated part of the Ecuadoran rain forest, subsidized the military regime in Burma and paid Nigerian soldiers who shot and killed protesters at a Chevron oil platform.

According to an article in Thursday’s San Francisco Chronicle, Chevron’s top executives rarely comment on these controversies, relying instead on lawyers and public relations specialists to present the company’s views. But Wednesday’s meeting was different, as there were several coarse exchanges between the activists and Chevron executives.

Speakers addressed a lawsuit in Ecuador that accuses Texaco of contaminating an oil-rich swath of the Amazon rain forest near the town of Lago Agrio. Texaco pumped oil there from 1964 until 1992, before turning over the operation to Ecuador’s state-run oil company, Petroecuador. Chevron bought Texaco in 2001.

Questions of the environment and human rights dominated much of the meeting. Shareholder resolutions up for a vote asked Chevron to put together a human rights policy, set targets for cutting greenhouse gases and investigate the environmental hazards of developing Canada’s oil sands. All were voted down by shareholders. They also rejected a proposal to split the jobs of chief executive officer and chairman of the board. A similar vote was put to the shareholders of ExxonMobil, 40% of whom voted to separate the CEO position from the Chairman position – a number that remained virtually unchanged from a similar proposal voted on last year. Chevron, on the other hand, saw the number of shareholders who wanted to split the two positions drop to about 15% from 40% in 2007.

The voting results from the human rights and environmental propositions at Chevron’s 2008 annual meeting are as follows:

Item 4: Approximately 14 percent of the votes cast were voted for the stockholder proposal to separate the CEO and chairman of the board positions.

Item 5: Approximately 24 percent of the votes cast were voted for the stockholder proposal to adopt a human rights policy and issue a report to the stockholders by October 2008 on the plan for implementing the policy.

Item 6: Approximately 25 percent of the votes cast were voted for the stockholder proposal to report on the environmental impact of expanding oil sands operations in the Canadian boreal forest.

Item 7: Approximately 9 percent of the votes cast were voted for the stockholder proposal to adopt quantitative goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and issue a report to stockholders by Sept. 30, 2008, on the company’s plans to implement the goals.

Item 8: Approximately 8 percent of the votes cast were voted for the stockholder proposal regarding the adoption of guidelines for investing in or withdrawing from individual countries and reporting of these guidelines to the stockholders and employees by October 2008.

Item 9: Approximately 7 percent of the votes cast were voted for the stockholder proposal to report on the policies and procedures that guide the company’s assessment of the adequacy of host country laws to protect human health, the environment and the company’s reputation.

San Francisco Chronicle

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About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.

5 comments

  • David-I think you're right. In marketing, this is the classic buggy whip story. The buggy whip companies (self-defined) all went out of business because buggies stopped being driven. If they had defined themselves as "transportation aids" or something to that effect, they would have looked at the issue more broadly, and stayed in business when cars became prevalent (tire pumps, fuel additives, windshield cleaning kits, etc.) (Same thing for Wang Computer which could not look beyond word processing.) Being an "energy company" gives you a much bigger mandate!

  • Oil companies hould really start thinking about themselves as "energy companies" and start diversifying their business.

    Oil is rapidly going out of fashion and is also running out entirely. If these companies don't start looking at alternate sources of energy then they won't exist in 100 years and probably much sooner than that.

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