The Little Engine that Could!

By Shlomo Maital    

   Remember the wonderful children’s book, by Watty Piper, about the little engine that could – I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…I KNEW I could!  (In pulling a heavy load up a steep hill)?

    The real-life version just happened.

     According to Matt Phillips, writing in the New York Times:  “Exxon’s Board Defeat Signals the Rise of Social-Good Activists.   The energy giant’s stunning loss was the work of a tiny hedge fund that believes investing for social good is also good for the bottom line.   An activist investor got three directors elected to the company’s 12-member board.   Wall Street has seen its share of strange bedfellows, but a recent alliance of investors that took on Exxon Mobil was unprecedented.  Last week [mid-June], an activist investor successfully waged a battle to install three directors on the board of Exxon with the goal of pushing the energy giant to reduce its carbon footprint. The investor, a hedge fund called Engine No. 1, was virtually unknown before the fight.   The tiny firm wouldn’t have had a chance were it not for an unusual twist: the support of some of Exxon’s biggest institutional investors. BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street voted against Exxon’s leadership and gave Engine No. 1 powerful support. These huge investment companies rarely side with activists on such issues.  The stunning result turned the sleepy world of boardroom elections into front-page news as climate activists declared a major triumph, and a blindsided Exxon was left to ponder its defeat.”

    Exxon-Mobil has been doing everything possible to maintain the hegemony of Big Oil and fossil fuels, while the world sizzles and parts of the Western US burn. And its Board of Directors has been culpable.   Now, three of the 12 board members will be present to put up a fight.   All, thanks to the quixotic efforts of the little Engine No. 1 that thought it could – and it did!   

     Others will follow.  This is the path to real climate crisis policy change.  Get people on the Board of Directors, and even as minorities, let them put up a real fight against corporate stonewalling. 

      Say, are there any other little Engines out there, who want to take on Shell?  Chevron?   BP?