The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Strategic CSR - Exxon

Last year, Exxon Mobil's shareholders voted on a motion asking the company to issue a report on its risk exposure to climate change. Although the company was not keen to comply, it has produced a report addressing the issue. The report reaches a very confident, if slightly weird, conclusion:
 
"Even aggressive climate policies pose 'little risk' to [Exxon's] investments. [The firm] stressed that it expected healthy demand for its products for decades to come, regardless of how strongly countries move to cut emissions. Exxon also played down the impact of electric vehicles on its business prospects."
 
You can see the full announcement/report here: http://cdn.exxonmobil.com/~/media/global/files/energy-and-environment/2018-energy-and-carbon-summary.pdf. To say the least, the company's position seems at odds with what the best science (not to mention, common sense) is telling us:
 
"A paper published in Nature in 2015 estimated that, for the world to have a 50-50 shot at staying below 2 degrees Celsius of warming, the world would have to avoid burning most of the coal reserves currently beneath the ground, half the natural gas, and about one-third of the oil."
 
Perhaps not surprisingly:
 
"Exxon laid out a more optimistic view. Oil and natural gas, the company's mainstays, will 'continue to play a critical role in meeting the world's energy demand,' the company said in its report."
 
Does the company have its head stuck in the sand, or is it confident its lobbyists will prevent any meaningful threat to the status quo?
 
"Exxon's vast fossil fuel reserves 'face little risk' of being left in the ground, the company said. Less than 5 percent of its reserves would be affected under a 2-degree scenario, the company estimated. Under that scenario, Exxon sees the world's oil consumption dropping only slowly in the next two decades or so, and sees demand for natural gas rising slightly."
 
A key assumption of the report is that technological innovation will allow the continued burning of fossil fuels:
 
"Exxon, for instance, has assumed the development of technologies such as carbon capture that would allow the use of fossil fuels to continue with lower emissions."
 
As we now know, reality is defined by who is shouting the loudest. As such, if Exxon continues to repeat that everything will be OK, perhaps its stakeholders will eventually start to believe it. Or, perhaps not:
 
"[Exxon did not] detail the risks from the growing number of lawsuits being filed against fossil fuel companies in various states around the United States. In January, New York City sued Exxon, BP, Shell, and other oil companies, demanding billions of dollars in damages to help the city cope with the effects of global warming. 'ExxonMobil's own analysis assumes the world will continue to burn through oil and gas to drive its profits, keeping us on a path toward global temperatures rising well above the 2 degree Celsius threshold,' said Kathy Mulvey, climate accountability manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists."
 
Take care
David
 
 
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Exxon Studies Global Climate Rules and Sees 'Little Risk' to Bottom Line
By Brad Plumer and Hiroko Tabuchi
February 3, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
B3