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Chris Hughes

Exxon Won't Be Last Shock Win for Activists

An incursion into Exxon’s boardroom is more than a win for climate campaigners. It’s a template for activism on social issues too.

Climate change is just a beginning 

Climate change is just a beginning 

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

An activist’s success in shaking up Exxon Mobil Corp.’s board is more than a win for the environmental pillar of ESG investing. It’s a template for shareholder campaigns on social issues ranging from discrimination to the obesity epidemic. Companies can’t assume that having a strong financial performance protects them from attack.

Investor Engine No. 1 secured the election of two non-executives at Exxon last month with just a 0.02% stake (and a third this month), saying the company needed a refreshed board since it was in denial about the pace of the global shift from fossil fuels. The Church Commissioners, which manages the Church of England investment fund, backed the campaign. Hedge fund DE Shaw had its own gripes about Exxon’s strategy and cost control.