The Securities and Exchange Commission has rejected attempts by ExxonMobil and Southern Company to keep certain transparency proposals off their 2011 annual meeting proxy ballots, according to Green Century Capital Management.
Green Century, which manages the environmentally responsible Green Century Mutual Funds, filed a shareholder proposal at ExxonMobil requesting the company increase disclosure on its investments in the Canadian oil sands. According to Green Century, Canada's oil sands are the second-largest oil resource in the world, but extraction and conversion are energy intensive and environmentally damaging. The process requires clear-cutting the Boreal Forest, extensive water use and creates large amounts of toxic waste.
Green Century also filed a shareholder proposal at Southern Company, requesting the company to increase transparency on its efforts to reduce the environmental and health hazards associated with coal ash. Coal ash is the byproduct of coal-fired power plants, and contains arsenic, mercury, lead and other toxins left after combustion, or filtered out by smokestack scrubbers.
"We are thrilled the SEC sided with investors and recognized neither company has adequately responded to our concerns," said Larisa Ruoff, director of shareholder advocacy for Green Century. "In the absence of meaningful disclosure, investors have no way of fully assessing the risks and rewards from investing in various companies. Shareholders need assurance that companies are candidly disclosing these risks and are adopting best management practices to minimize them," she continued.
According to Green Century, similar proposals were voted on at both companies during their 2010 annual meetings, with 26% of ExxonMobil shareholders and 21% of Southern Company shareholders voting for such transparency.
As of December 31, neither ExxonMobil or Southern Company shares were held by Green Century Funds.