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Activist Investor Wins Seats on ExxonMobil's Board in Major Defeat to CEO

Activist Investor Wins Seats on ExxonMobil's Board in Major Defeat to CEO
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

For years, there's been an emphasis on individual efforts to combat the climate crisis, such as conserving water, recycling, composting, and more. While these are admirable, the reality is that major corporations are mostly to blame for the acceleration of the crisis that threatens all humanity.

According to the Plastic Waste Makers Index, only 20 companies make up more than half of the world's single-use plastic waste. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions, according to a 2017 Carbon Majors Report, which argues that massive changes from a small set of oil companies are key to mitigating the current existential crisis.

The effort to hold those corporations accountable saw a victory this past week, when shareholders of oil magnate ExxonMobil voted to appoint at least two independent directors to its board. The measure had been emphatically opposed by chief executive Darren Woods, who tried to whip the votes to oust the directors from the board. That opposition cost around $10 million, according to the Washington Post.

The six month campaign to appoint the directors was initially a long shot from Engine No. 1, a relatively small hedge fund, but soon got support from three major fund managers which collectively hold nearly a quarter of ExxonMobil's shares.

As the Post notes, these new directors still make up a minority of the board, but "the top executives at ExxonMobil and many other corporations are unaccustomed to being challenged by their own handpicked directors."

Though there's still a long way to go before corporations like ExxonMobil put survival over profits, people were heartened by the development.

They claimed it was an epoch in the effort to combat the climate crisis.

That same day, other oil magnates like Shell and Chevron saw major defeats from climate activists in what the Post called A bad day for Big Oil.