A Real Way to Improve the Environment

Courtesy of Justin Roysdon

Many people talk about the environment. Many people boycott companies and publicly speak against companies that they believe pollute. I’ve got a way that you can make a real difference for the environment: Buy stock in a major oil company and vote as a shareholder.

I am a conservative Christian Republican. I am not an animal rights activist, and I am not an environmental activist. I support the principals of capitalism. However, I also believe that large companies have a greater responsibility in how they spend their money and how they conduct business. As a Christian, I believe we are responsible for the earth (see Gen 1:28-29).

I dabble in the stock market and am always considering how to invest my money wisely. I keep seeing the price of oil go up and I have been trying to figure out a way to invest. Last month I purchased stock in Chevron (CVX). I think with the current issues with Iran’s nukes and the war in Iraq, that oil prices will continue to rise over the next few years. But, back to my point. I just received an e-mail to place my proxy vote for the 2007 annual meeting. There were eight different issues to vote on, ranging from company policy on Greenhouse Gas emissions to who they are hiring for their accounting firm. Just reading the recommendations from the board was shocking. As a Christian, I believe that God expects mankind to a responsible steward of the earth. I believe that oil companies have failed to fulfill that responsibility. I think that most if not all of you would agree after reading the Chevron shareholder 2007 Proxy Statement.

Shareholders are asking the board to “… adopt and post an Animal Welfare Policy online…” for the purpose of letting shareholders and anyone else know what goes on behind closed doors. This seems reasonable to me. I would like to know what policy Chevron uses to guide its scientists during animal testing. The board is recommending against this. How irrational is that?
Another vote that really stuck me as obvious is the one on greenhouse emissions. The shareholders are asking Chevron to publicly adopt goals to reduce greenhouse emissions, and to report on plans to achieve those goals to stockholders. Again, the board wants people to vote against this. They don’t want public accountability. I was really curious as to why the board would be against this. Here is their reason: “Your Board believes that a special report on GHG emissions is unnecessary and in inefficient use of company resources.” They believe that their “Corporate Responsibility Report” is effective enough. They paid the Chairman $13,008,715 (yeah, that’s 13 million) in company stock last year. That’s not including his salary of $1,620,833. His total compensation was $31,602,889 for 2006. I think they can afford a special report on greenhouse gas emissions. I think it would be a very responsible way to spend “company resources.”

Chevron produced 374 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2005. The current company plan has been in place for six years. The biggest boast the board can make is that they have reduced the total by 3 million metric tons. Less than 1% …

I don’t think their plan is working.

To me this seems like a token reduction just to make the company look good (or keep it from looking bad). They need to make a real plan, make it publicly available, and be held accountable for it. They should at least be accountable to their stockholders!

The final vote that I will mention is the one to separate the position of CEO from the position of Chairman of the Board. In my opinion the CEO of a company should be responsible to the Board of directors. The CEO needs to be accountable to someone. However, if he is the Chairman, then he has a great deal of control over the board. In effect, he is his own boss. The lack of accountability in a company starts at the top. The shareholders want to make a policy that the CEO cannot be the Chairman of the Board for the reasons I stated above. The Board (controlled by the CEO) argues against this. Here is their argument: “Chevron’s by-laws … (provide) the Board with the flexibility to choose the best individual suited to serve as chairman.” This is amazing! The company by-laws specifically declare that the CEO is required to be the Chairman of the Board. How is this more flexible? The board is required to make the CEO the Chairman. In an odd twist of logic this means they have to hire a CEO that will be their boss. What kind of a screwed up system is that? Pick your own boss, and he will be his own boss. Can you imagine if the Presidency worked this way? The Senate would pick the President, and the President would be the Majority leader. You think there is corruption in politics now?

Well, congratulations if you have managed to read this far. Consider my original suggestion that you purchase stock in a major oil company and vote your shares. I was able to buy six shares of Chevron for a little over $400. With my current budget it took me four months to save up that money, but I think it’s worth it. One, the stock will most likely increase due to world events. And, two, I am using that money in a responsible way that I believe God requires of us all. If everybody who talks about the environment would “put their money where their mouth is” they would be much more effective. It is too late for new shareholders to vote in this annual meeting for Chevron, but I encourage you to buy in time for next year – and vote ’em if you got ’em.