Berkeley, Calif. — A shareholder resolution challenging a major petrochemical company on virgin and single-use plastic production received a 37.4% vote from ExxonMobil shareholders at the company’s annual meeting today. This follows a majority vote (50.4%) at Phillips 66 on a similar resolution earlier this month.
The resolution asks ExxonMobil to publish a report describing the potential impacts of a significant reduction in virgin plastic demand on its business and quantifying how much of its plastic production is single-use bound. According to the Plastic Waste Makers Index, ExxonMobil is the world’s largest producer of virgin plastic resins bound for single-use applications.
The scientific community has warned that plastic pollution may be nearing an irreversible tipping point. The plastic lifecycle imposes costs on the environment, climate, and human health that are at least 10 times higher than the market price of plastics. At the heart of the plastic pollution problem are single-use plastics, which make up the largest component of ocean-bound plastic pollution.
ExxonMobil states that it “shares society’s concern about plastic waste in the environment” and has set an advanced recycling capacity target of 500,000 metric tons by 2026. However, the company’s planned expansions of virgin plastic production are eight times higher than its recycling target. In total, Exxon’s recycled plastics target is estimated to displace no more than 5% of its virgin plastic production volumes by 2026.
“What investors are looking for is robust and quantitative disclosure of a company’s exposure to the single-use plastics supply chain and how the company can fundamentally change its business model for plastics production,” said Joshua Romo, energy and plastics associate at As You Sow.
As You Sow’s resolution is based on peer-reviewed research from the Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ, in collaboration with global experts, which found that the world can feasibly reduce ocean plastic pollution by 80% by 2040 using existing technology. Presented as the System Change Scenario in the widely respected “Breaking the Plastic Wave” report, this transition is based on a global shift to recycled plastics (nearly tripling demand for recycled content) coupled with a one-third absolute reduction of virgin demand (mostly of virgin single-use plastic).
“These high votes with Exxon and Phillips 66 send a loud, clear message to the industry to move swiftly to develop a blueprint for an expeditious transition away from virgin plastic and less production of throwaway plastics overall,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow.
As You Sow is the nation’s leading shareholder advocacy nonprofit, with a 30-year track record promoting environmental and social corporate responsibility and advancing values-aligning investing. Its issue areas include climate change, ocean plastics, pesticides, racial justice, workplace diversity, and executive compensation. Click here for As You Sow’s shareholder resolution tracker.