Shareholders demand Southern Company stop supporting climate change denial 2015-05-27

It’s not just us gnats anymore, Southern Company now has yellowflies giving it the business about converting from fossil fuels to renewable energy. That’s smart business, since SO called out solar power in its own 2014 Annual Report for increased revenues in both 2013 and 2014. Tomorrow at Callaway Gardens, stockholders including me will vote.

Dave Williams, Atlanta Business Chronicle, 15 May 2015, Southern shareholders to consider ‘green’ vote,

Unlike past “green” resolutions considered at the company’s annual shareholders meeting, this one has prominent business backing. In fact, it reflects a trend of growing support in the business community for America’s corporate giants to boost their bottom lines by becoming more proactive in addressing climate change.

“More and more large institutional investors are voting for these kinds of proposals,” said Lee Adrean, retired former chief financial officer for Atlanta-based Equifax Inc. and a volunteer with the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club.

Indeed, an analysis compiled by Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy group, shows that 13 U.S. mutual fund companies supported more than half of the climate-related shareholder resolutions they voted on last year.

“It’s not just the environmentalists anymore,” said Mark Woodall, a Georgia Sierra Club vice chairman who has signed onto the Southern resolution as a co-filer.

Specifically, the resolution asks that Southern adopt goals for reducing carbon emissions and submit a report to shareholders by Nov. 1.

Here’s the text of the resolution.

Nell Minow, HuffPo, 22 May 2015, Can Southern Company Shareholders Persuade Its Board to Stop Supporting Climate Change Denial?

On May 27, 2015, the shareholders of utility Southern Company will have the chance to tell the corporation’s board that they want more independence, more transparency, and a stop to the company’s support of climate change “research” that fails to meet academic standards

May 27 is the company’s annual shareholder meeting, and the items to be voted on include a “proxy access” proposal supported by a group of investors with significant holdings of Southern Company stock and significant concerns about its board. The shareholder group, made up of the City of Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirement, the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, CtW Investment Group, Miami Firefighters’ Relief and Pension Fund, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, wrote a letter to their fellow shareholders, asking for their support.

As shareholders owning a large amount of Southern Company (“Southern”) stock, we believe that Southern’s Board of Directors has failed in its responsibility to effectively oversee public policy activities and police potential conflicts of interest. Of particular concern is the company’s secret support for controversial climate change skeptic Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon, with a series of payments that stopped only after the relationship was disclosed following a FOIA request.

They are also concerned about the board’s ability to provide effective, objective oversight. While the directors meet the loose SEC standards for “independence,” the shareholder group points out that there are a number of significant relationships that compromise the independence of directors and may impair their ability to act as fiduciaries for the shareholders. Their letter points out:

The article details interlocking board positions between Vulcan Materials, SunTrust, the Atlanta Fed, and SO.

Southern Company can do better. And its shareholders are demanding that it do so.