As part of its ongoing commitment to championing environmental sustainability, United Church Funds (UCF) has filed a shareholder resolution – in collaboration with As You Sow – urging ExxonMobil to confront its role in the production of single-use plastics.

The concerns raised by UCF and other ExxonMobil shareholders highlight the growing attention to the impacts of plastic pollution. Single-use plastics are particularly problematic, constituting a significant portion of the 24 to 34 million metric tons of plastic entering waterways annually. Without decisive action, this volume could triple by 2040.

Rather than engaging with these concerns, ExxonMobil has attacked UCF and As You Sow, as well as Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), as “professional activist organizations” in an effort to malign sustainability efforts as counter to Exxon’s business interests.

Matthew Illian, UCF’s Director of Responsible Investing, expressed disappointment at ExxonMobil’s response, pointing to a fundamental misinterpretation of UCF’s approach and a concerning lack of corporate responsibility. “UCF engages all corporations with a dual mandate to seek a just and sustainable world and provide competitive long-term returns to its investors. We do not always agree with a company on corporate priorities, but if we invest in a company, we want it to thrive over the long term,” said Illian.

In another climate-related shareholder engagement, Exxon has gone so far as to intimidate sustainability efforts by filing a lawsuit against Arjuna Capital and FollowThis, both of which are requesting expedited action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In response to ExxonMobil’s lawsuit, ICCR issued a public statement condemning ExxonMobil’s hostility towards investors and raising legitimate concerns about climate-related financial risks. ICCR noted that investors and countless other stakeholders have implored oil and gas companies like Exxon to respond meaningfully to the climate crisis by shifting their business model away from an over-reliance on fossil fuels.

Josh Zinner, ICCR’s CEO, said: “Rather than responding to these calls and demonstrating the needed leadership, Exxon filed a ’SLAPP suit‘ and published disparaging remarks on its proxy statement about those who dared to question its management of climate risks. This signals a growing hostility and open contempt for the legitimate concerns of investors regarding the company’s management of climate-related financial risk. These intimidation tactics are beneath a company of Exxon’s size and influence.”

Despite ExxonMobil’s staunch opposition, UCF’s shareholder resolution on single-use plastics garnered support from 20.8% of current shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting on May 29, indicating that many believe this is a critical issue for Exxon.

“Undeterred by ExxonMobil’s legal attempts to silence shareholder voices, UCF remains steadfast in holding corporations like Exxon accountable for the business risks and environmental injustices associated with their expanded plastics business,” said Illian. “We are optimistic that support for this resolution will grow in future years as asset owners and managers become more informed about the growing risks posed by plastic and microplastic pollution.”

UCF believes that meaningful progress is only attainable through sustained pressure and collaborative efforts, and UCF will continue its mission of fostering a more just and sustainable world while ensuring competitive long-term returns for its clients.