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Feature Story

Shareholders Go In Swinging

by Laura Wright

Investors challenge energy companies to get real about global warming.

Since the 1980s, shareholder activism has proved to be a powerful driver of social change. Major institutional investors, including many state retirement funds and university endowments, successfully pressured multinational corporations such as General Motors and IBM to pull out of South Africa, eventually helping to dismantle apartheid. Today's shareholder activists look to exert influence on a new range of issues, includ-ing global warming. Over the past several years, they have begun to challenge big power companies -- the largest source of global warming pollution in the United States -- to voluntarily report their greenhouse gas emissions and to start to address the financial risks that climate change presents to the electric power industry, especially as governments look to regulate greenhouse gases.

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In the documents below, a group of institutional stockholders -- Boston Common Asset Management, acting on behalf of the Protestant Church of the Brethren, and the New York City Employees' Retirement System -- filed a resolution with Progress Energy, the ninth-largest generator of electricity in the country and, correspondingly, the power industry's ninth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

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Laura Wright is the senior editor of OnEarth.

OnEarth. Winter 2007
Copyright 2007 by the Natural Resources Defense Council