Politics of Poverty

Investors to companies: Going green is good business

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As General Mills was about to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, Oxfam was outside, urging the company behind Pillsbury, Green Giant, Lucky Charms, and more to #ActOnClimate. Photo: Vasia Markides / Oxfam America

A shareholder explains why investors are teaming up with Oxfam to convince food giants like General Mills to change their policies.

When Oxfam calls on companies to change way they do business, we don’t go it alone. We team up with those who will help us motivate them to pay attention. Consumers, of course, play a big part, but investors do, too.

Just a month ago, Oxfam, along with other investors, withdrew a shareholder resolution that called on General Mills to do more to disclose and reduce the Scope 3 emissions that are generated in its supply chain, following sweeping commitments from the company to do more to tackle climate change.

Lucia von Reusner, a shareholder advocate with Green Century Capital Management, was a co-filer on the shareholder resolution which helped move the company to act. While investors are always interested in the bottom line, Oxfam always looks for ways to partner with other stakeholders in an effort to get a company to act, and in this case the bottom line and efforts to tackle poverty coalesced nicely.

As shareholders come together today for their annual meeting, I asked Lucia to explain from an investor’s perspective why she pushes companies to act on climate change. Here’s what she said:

“As investors, we are particularly concerned about risk. Climate change arguably presents the biggest risk facing our planet—and an increasing potential risk to companies and their shareholders. Climate change exacerbates extreme weather like floods, droughts, and hurricanes, making it harder for companies to do business. Food companies in particular face significant risks from climate change, as extreme weather from climate change has caused massive crop failures that disrupt the supply chain and raise the price of key ingredients.

That’s why Green Century filed a shareholder proposal with Oxfam America urging General Mills to assess the risk that climate change posed to its business and to take action to mitigate these risks. General Mills is one of the world’s largest food manufactures, making it extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on crop production and food security throughout its supply chain.

Responding to our concerns, General Mills became the first major food and beverage company to adopt long-term, science-based targets to cut carbon pollution across all of its operations and supply chains. Most importantly, these goals included reducing Scope 3 emissions—which are emissions associated with the company’s supply chain, which is where the vast majority of climate pollution occurs.

Earlier this year, Green Century also secured commitments from major companies, including Kellogg’s, Smuckers, and ConAgra, to make sure that their palm oil supply chains were not linked to tropical deforestation, a major driver of climate change. These commitments from companies to reduce the impacts of their supply chain on climate change protect the environment, the long-term resilience of the company, and shareholder value.

When investors speak, companies listen—and investors are increasingly calling for action on climate change.”

Note: As Green Century Capital Management’s shareholder advocate, Lucia von Reusner leverages shareholder influence to encourage environmentally responsible business practices. Founded in 1991 by the state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), Green Century Capital Management is an investment advisory firm that manages the first family of responsible and diversified fossil fuel free mutual funds and leads a robust shareholder advocacy program.

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