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January 15, 2013

ICCR Challenges Companies on Climate Change
    by Robert Kropp

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility have filed 28 shareowner resolutions thus far that address climate change related issues such as climate risk and sustainability reporting. -- Improved dialogue has been one of the striking aspects of corporate engagement in recent years, due in no small part to the efforts of members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). In 2012, for the first time, the corporate dialogues engaged in by ICCR members outnumbered the shareowner resolutions filed, a far cry from when members submitted as many as 650 resolutions in a single year.

But addressing climate change in a meaningful and proactive way has become the most urgent issue of our time. The draft of the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA), published last week, paints a grim picture of a world unprepared for effects that are already taking place. "The level of current efforts is insufficient to avoid increasingly serious impacts of climate change that have large social, environmental, and economic consequences," the report states.

This year, ICCR members have responded to the urgency of the issue by filing 28 shareowner resolutions thus far that focus on such issues as reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. "Industry as a whole has been slow to adopt meaningful changes in spite of intensifying weather events and the documented savings that result from a reduced carbon footprint," ICCR stated.

"Every so often an issue of enormous consequence emerges to underscore the importance of active stock ownership," Laura Berry, ICCR's Executive Director, said. "Climate change is one of those issues."

Resolutions filed at high emitting companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and coal producer Alpha Natural Resources request that they report to shareowners on the "exposure and vulnerability of our company's facilities and operations to climate risk." Numerous companies were asked to reduce their GHG emissions. And, continuing a campaign that has successfully convinced a number of major corporations to commit to purchasing only 100% sustainable palm oil continues, members have called on three companies to source only sustainable palm oil.

Resolutions were filed at eight companies requesting that they produce sustainability reports. And, in what ICCR describes as a "move into new territory," JPMorgan Chase and PNC Financial Services were asked to assess the GHG emissions in their lending and financial portfolios. "JPMorgan Chase does not have a strategic company-wide framework to address the climate change implications of its lending, financing, and investing portfolio," the resolution filed with the company states. "It has not provided investors with sufficient information to permit the meaningful assessment of the risks presented by its financing of greenhouse gas-intensive businesses."

"It was ICCR members who first helped management understand that those companies that measure and report their environmental risk are better able to manage it strategically and, for that reason, are seen as better investments," Paul Dickinson of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) said. In 2012, CDP reported that companies engaged in carbon reduction activities generate an average return on investment of 33%, equivalent to a payback period of three years.

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