Exxon Mobil shareholders to meet amid criticism

Exxon Mobil shareholders will meet this week in Dallas amid growing criticism for the company and its policies, particularly related to gay employees and climate change.

Though much of the scrutiny has come over the past week, after a complaint arguing that Exxon Mobil discriminated against a job applicant because of her sexual orientation, the company has also faced heat for other aspects of its policies and operations.

Among them is an apparent contradiction in Exxon Mobil’s benefits that extends coverage to the same-sex spouses of some employees, but not others.

“Benefit coverage for spouses is based on legally recognized spousal relationships in the
individual countries where we operate,” the company says in its Corporate Citizenship Report.

“In the United States, we have adopted the definition of spouse used in federal law. Employees in countries where national law recognizes same-sex relationships receive spousal benefits under Exxon Mobil programs.”

Workers have been affected by the patchwork policy, with some who enjoyed benefits for their same-sex spouses in Europe losing those benefits upon transferring to the United States, according to the New York Times.

Shareholders and corporate governance advocates have argued for more than a decade that Exxon Mobil’s policies related gay employees affects the company’s competitive advantage because it makes it less attractive to some talented workers.

A regular shareholder proposal at the company’s annual meeting has pushed for a change in Exxon Mobil’s discrimination policies to explicitly ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It will be before shareholders again on Wednesday, arguing that Exxon Mobil should join more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies that have adopted written policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Human Rights Campaign this year gave Exxon Mobil the lowest-ever rating in its ranking of corporate policies. While many Fortune 500 companies received a score of 80 or higher out of 100, Exxon Mobil received a score below zero. The company scored negative-25.

Exxon Mobil says its training materials and internal website make clear that the company does not allow any kind of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The company argues that a change to its policies is not necessary.

Critics have also increasingly challenged Exxon Mobil on its efforts to curb climate change.

Though the company has acknowledged the role of humans in accelerating the planet’s warming, and has advocated a carbon tax to help battle climate change, it has opposed explicit greenhouse gas reduction goals.

But if Exxon Mobil moves forward with its plans to produce and sell the oil in its reserves, it will substantially help warm the planet to a level that global leaders have agreed would be damaging, according to a story on “This American Life.”

Exxon Mobil, for the seventh year, is opposing a shareholder proposal advocating greenhouse gas reduction targets that will be up for a vote at its meeting on Wednesday.