Shareholders Pushing Companies Over Environmental Issues

The number of shareholders filing resolutions with corporations concerning the environment is on the rise. It shows investors are taking a bigger interest in their portfolio's climate and energy strategies, though the motivation isn't always to save the planet.

Environmental issues are increasingly becoming economic issues. According to the environment and investment coalition Ceres, shareholders are taking notice. Ceres reports the number of shareholder led resolutions filed with energy companies this year is up 50% from last year.

Five resolutions have been filed with natural gas drillers. That includes Chevron, which acquired Atlas Resources last month. Atlas has been fined by Pennsylvania and sued by a landowner over spilled fracking fluid.

Hershey and other candy companies are also being pushed. A group of Catholic nuns from Michigan are trying to get Hershey to use more sustainably sourced palm oil.

But Senior Manager at Ceres, Rob Berridge, points out that for most investors, the concern can be more financial than social.

"They're very professional, institutional investors, and they're worried about bottom line issues. Climate change and other sustainability risks have now become financial issues," said Berridge. 

Berridge says the number of resolutions being withdrawn is also increasing -- meaning companies and shareholders are reaching an agreement on issues.