A small hedge fund with an activist mission to address climate change has won two seats on the board of directors of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers, with two seats still too close to call, NPR reports.
The hedge fund, Engine No. 1, is a group started less than a year ago by Chris James, a technology hedge fund veteran, with the idea of using investment money to inspire change in the companies they invest in.
“The firm was founded on the shared belief that a company’s ability to create long-term shareholder value depends on the investments it makes in jobs, workers, communities, and the environment,” Engine No. 1 says on its “About Us” page of a site devoted to “reenergizing ExxonMobil” through the recomposition of the 13-member ExxonMobil board of directors.
A overtly environmental-enlightened hedge fund gaining seats on the board of a fossil fuel company demonstrates a seismic shift in the thinking of institutional investors who own the majority of shares in the company. It will push the oil giant to more aggressively pursue climate-friendly policies and operations as well as push the company to investigate different ways to produce energy.
Engine No. 1 appealed to ExxonMobil’s disappointing financial performance as the oil and gas market expanded in the past decade.
“10 years ago, ExxonMobil was the largest company in the world by market capitalization and the #1 company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA),” the fund declares. “Prior to our campaign, however, its market capitalization had been cut in half and ExxonMobil had been kicked out of the DJIA. Further, this historical underperformance occurred with growing oil and gas demand and yet the Company has no credible strategy to create value in a decarbonizing world.”