US Investors Support Global Warming Resolution with General Motors
Today several leading U.S. institutional investors, representing more than $400 billion in invested assets, announced their support for a shareholder resolution requesting that General Motors assess and disclose its strategies for facing the significant financial risks posed by global climate change. The resolution will be voted on at the company's June 7 annual meeting.
The shareholders include state treasurers and pension fund leaders from California, Connecticut and New York, as well as faith-based investors.
Citing the growing prevalence of climate change regulations, rising consumer demand for lower-emitting vehicles and the high "carbon burden" of GM's vehicle fleet, the investors said they will support a resolution requesting that General Motors assess how it plans to:
--Ensure competitive positioning based on emerging near- and long-term greenhouse gas regulatory scenarios at the state, regional, national and international levels.
--Comply with California's greenhouse gas standards.
--Significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its vehicle fleets (using a 2004 baseline) by 2014 and 2024.The resolution requests that the report be prepared by a committee of independent members on the company's board of directors and that it be submitted to shareholders by September 1, 2005.
The resolution was filed by the sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J., the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).
"General Motors has lost sight of a major market shift," said California State Controller Steve Westly, trustee of the CalPERS and CalSTRS pension funds that together own more than 4.2 million shares of GM stock. "Canada and the European market must meet their Kyoto targets and China has recently adopted new fuel efficiency standards that could also place GM at a competitive disadvantage. To remain successful, auto companies must address this changing global regulatory environment."
"As a long-term investor and fiduciary, I encourage General Motors and its board to evaluate and report on the company's financial risks and opportunities from climate change," added Connecticut Treasurer Denise L. Nappier. "Consumers are already responding to rising fuel prices by shopping for fuel efficient automobiles. As more countries address the need to reduce carbon emissions this trend will intensify and GM's current product line will become obsolete. We are asking General Motors to look to the future and tell shareholders how it plans to address the emerging reality and thereby protect the long-term value of the company and our investment."
The resolution comes as many of General Motors' leading domestic and foreign competitors are moving more aggressively to evaluate their potential financial exposure on the climate change issue and improve their overall competitive positioning. In late March, for example, the Ford Motor Co. announced that it will prepare a comprehensive report for investors examining the impacts greenhouse gas reduction regulations and other climate-related policy changes will have on its North American business over the next 5 to 10 years. This agreement with Ford resulted in the withdrawal of the same resolution sponsored by many of the same shareholders who are pressuring GM.
Meanwhile, competitors such as Toyota have been successfully selling lower-emitting gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles in the U.S. for the past three years and recently announced plans to begin producing hybrids in Kentucky in 2006. Canada, California and a half-dozen states in the Northeast have all announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles sold in their regions.
"Supporting this resolution sends a signal to GM and the auto industry that a business plan ensuring profitability in a carbon-constrained economy must be in place in order to assure stockholders of the long-term fiscal health of the corporation," said Sister Patricia Daly, OP, corporate responsibility representative of the Sisters of St. Dominic, a member of Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which filed the resolution.