Religious Investors Turn up the Heat on Governance Issues

December 11, 2002 ( - A coalition of religious orders and environmentally activist investors have unveiled global warming related shareholder resolutions targeted at the world's two largest automakers.

The resolutions, which were filed at General Motors Corporation and Ford Motor Company ask that the companies measure and report to their shareholders on carbon dioxide – so-called “greenhouse gas” – emissions from their plants and products, and commit to significantly reducing those emissions by 2012.

California “Steaming”

According to a press release from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, 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.

The filers at Ford Motor Company include:

  • the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell New Jersey,
  • the United Church Foundation of the United Church of Christ,
  • the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia,
  • the Adrian Dominican Sisters,
  • Christian Brothers Investment Services, and
  • the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, among others.

At General Motors, the filers include:

  • the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell New Jersey
  • the United Church Foundation
  • the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
  • the Benedictine Sisters,
  • the Sisters of St. Joseph of La Grange, Illinois, and
  • the Jesuit Conference, among others.

Reputational Risk?

“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 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.”