Shareholders Give Bank Mandate To Address Climate Change

Shareholders ask PNC Financial to assess the greenhouse gas emissions enabled by its lending practices

Apr 24, 2013, 10:36 ET from Boston Common Asset Management

PITTSBURGH, April 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Shareholders of PNC Financial (PNC) have sent a clear message to the banking industry that investors are interested in their management of climate change risk.  At PNC's annual shareholder meeting , 22.8% voted in support of a controversial resolution asking the company to assess its exposure to climate change in its lending, investing, and financing activities.  Given changes in Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) policies, this is the first time that shareholders have been able to vote on this topic.  Support votes over 20% are usually considered a strong mandate from investors, and 23% is extraordinary for a first time resolution.

Meredith Benton, Client Portfolio Manager at Boston Common Asset Management, the lead filer of the resolution, stated, "This vote reflects investors' concerns that a lack of strategic management of climate change risk in lending and financing decisions may expose a bank to significant reputational, financial and operational risks."  Recent studies have raised concerns that fossil fuel intensive companies – particularly those reliant on coal – are overvalued.  Future regulations, as well as an emphasis on "cleaner" fuels, are expected to undermine the coal market.  

Investors are also concerned that PNC's strong environmental brand might be damaged by a lack of attention to climate concerns.  PNC, which has trademarked the term "Green Branch," has put significant effort into developing energy efficient retail branches.  The annual meeting, however, was disrupted by activists protesting the company's ongoing involvement in coal extraction through mountain top removal. 

In discussing the shareholder vote, Ms. Benton stated, "We expect that PNC will take seriously the request made by over 20% of its investors, representing more than $5.4 billion dollars."

Filers of the resolution were: Boston Common Asset Management, Catholic Health East, Domini Social Investments, Friends Fiduciary Corporation, Sisters of Mercy, and Walden Asset Management. 

About Boston Common Asset Management
Boston Common Asset Management, LLC is an investment manager and a leader in global sustainability initiatives, specializing in long-only International equity, U.S. equity, and U.S. balanced strategies. Through integrated analysis of financial, and environmental, social and governance factors, Boston Common seeks sustainable, long-term capital appreciation by investing in diversified portfolios of what it believes to be high-quality companies.


Meredith Benton            

SOURCE Boston Common Asset Management