July 7, 2010 / 4:02 AM / in 7 years

More shareholders vote yes on climate goals -study

* 16 of 42 climate-related proposals get 30 pct support

* Average proposal gets 24.6 pct “yes” votes in 2010-Ceres

BOSTON, July 7 (Reuters) - Proxy proposals intended to encourage U.S. companies to reduce emissions and better disclose their environmental footprints this year received a higher percentage of shareholder support than ever, according to a report by an activist U.S. investor group.

Of the 42 climate-related resolutions voted on at the 2010 shareholder meetings of U.S. public companies, 16 received 30 percent or more of the vote, compared with 6 of 28 that received that level of support in 2009, a report by the Ceres coalition of socially concerned investors, companies and public interest groups.

On average, the resolutions received 24.6 percent of the shareholder vote, up from 21.7 percent in 2009, Ceres said.

“If our portfolio companies are to provide long-term shareowner value, they need to be proactive, not reactive, in addressing climate change and other ESG (environmental, social and governance) matters,” said Jack Ehnes, chief executive of No. 2 U.S. pension system the California State Teachers Retirement system, a Ceres member. “The excessive focus on short-term profits at the expense of all else has proven disastrous and has led to widespread financial issues.”

Investors argue that companies face rising costs due to climate change, both directly from changes in weather and indirectly through tighter regulations on emissions, and that higher levels of disclosure are needed to help investors assess the risks a company faces.

Two proposals received majority votes. Shareholders of Layne Christensen Co (LAYN.O) voted by 60.3 percent to support a measure asking the drilling and construction services company to issue a report on its environmental, social and governance practices.

At coal miner Massey Energy Co MEE.N, 53.1 percent of shareholders who voted yes or no cast their vote in support of a resolution calling for the company to adopt quantitative goals to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions

Ceres’ methodology includes only yes or no votes, excluding abstentions. By Massey’s count -- which includes abstentions -- just 36.8 percent of shareholders approved the resolution.

Massey is the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia where an April 5 explosion killed 29 miners.

Boston-based Ceres also noted that 51 shareholder resolutions were withdrawn after the companies agreed to climate-change related commitments.

For instance, an activist investor group opted not to submit a shareholder proposal to Procter & Gamble Co’s (PG.N) proxy after the world’s largest household products company agreed to begin reporting on what percentage of palm oil it buys is sustainably sourced. (Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Gary Hill)

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