Oil and gas behemoth ExxonMobil shaken by shareholders

Three new directors appointed to company’s board could steer a transition to renewables.


Kaisa Hietala, former Neste Oyj executive, pictured in Central Park in Helsinki, Finland. Hietala, Alexander Karsner, a former Energy Department official, and Gregory J. Goff, the former chief executive of Andeavor, were elected to ExxonMobil’s board of directors. They all have expertise to help transition Exxon away from oil and gas, and toward clean energy.
Roni Rekomaa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In February 2019, ExxonMobil shareholders attempted to pass a resolution that would have pushed the company to adopt stricter and more transparent emissions targets in response to climate change. Exxon fought back, blocking the vote through the Securities and Exchange Commission, which under the Trump administration stalled similar resolutions at other companies, dismissing the idea as “micromanagement” (“Can the tools of capitalism curb climate change?” April 2019). 

In May, the oil industry received a major shock: Against executives’ wishes, ExxonMobil’s shareholders elected three new members to the board of directors, all with the expertise to help transition Exxon away from oil and gas and toward clean energy. Calling it a watershed moment, Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund president, told the Washington Post: “It’s no longer tenable for companies like ExxonMobil to defy calls to align their businesses with decarbonizing the economy.”

Jessica Kutz is an assistant editor for High Country News. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor

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