Impact investors (in the end followed by Blackrock and others) just managed to force two new directors into EXXON Board (biggest oil company in the World) who will push to accelerate the energy transition.
Why is this extremely important: major oil companies' free cash flows (net of investments) will likely reach $ 200 billion this year or more. Over the last 15 years, we are talking about hundreds of billions of accumulated free cash flows accumulated by the oil majors, despite their large investments into new fossil fuel capacities and into some diversification in renewables. These amounts are bigger than the total Euro Green Deal.
But what just happened at Exxon is sadly quite unlikely to happen in Europe:
- First because European investors currently disengage massively - i.e.. sell on the cheap their oil stocks to non-European investors, and are proud of it. This may though very likely be a crime against our Planet. They should on the contrary engage: keep their oil stocks and use their shareholders’ rights to push the oil companies to accelerate their energy transition: this would be enormously beneficial to save the Planet.
Disengaging (selling) oils stocks means someone else is doing the opposite: increasing their holdings in European oil companies at bargain prices, and eventually taking control of them and of their huge cash flows. And who are they: non-European by definition Are Russian, Chinese, Middle-East investors as climate-change focused as EU ones? Are they so interested in transitioning out of oil or rather in grabbing these huge free cash flows on the cheap?
This is I’m afraid a serious flaw in current EU approaches.
- Second because a majority of European oil stocks are held not by domestic investors but in other EU Member States, and high barriers to cross-border voting are preventing many of these to engage. This is a most important reason to lower at last the barriers to the exercise by individual investors of their voting rights, so they can influence these companies like the US investors just did with Exxon.
This would be true "sustainable corporate governance".