From your writer’s experience covering religious shareholder activism the past few years, the phrase “enlightened engagement in the capital markets” is a trigger warning for a whole lotta hollow slogans to follow. Therefore it wasn’t a surprise to read on the website of Arjuna Capital that the aforementioned “enlightened engagement” is about “sustainability” and “social equity” – euphemistic buzzwords for an agenda that typically threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs, company and shareholder profitability, and drives up costs for consumers. Such is the puffery exercised by Arjuna – an affiliate of religious-based activist group As You Sow – not only on its website, but as well in the recently defeated shareholder resolution the investment group submitted at the Entergy Corporation annual shareholders meeting.
Entergy is an energy company providing Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi residents with 30,000 megawatts of electricity each year, including 10,000 mw generated from nuclear power plants. Entergy serves approximately 2.8 million customers and employs 13,000 workers. It oversees an estimated 15,500 circuit miles of high-voltage transmission lines.
In April, Entergy was ranked 18th overall on Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s 2016 100 Best Corporate Citizens list. In the philanthropy and community support category, Entergy was ranked 4th. No one-time Charlie they, Entergy made the magazine’s list for the past seven years, measured according to 260 performance metrics that include environment, climate change, employee relations, human rights, corporate governance, financial performance, and philanthropy and community support. The press release linked above also notes: “Along with philanthropy, Entergy’s highest-ranked areas are environment, climate change and employee relations.”
So it’s rather interesting that Arjuna’s resolution at this year’s Entergy annual shareholder meeting, which was held Friday, May 6, sought the following:
With board oversight, shareholders request that Entergy create a report by October 2016 (at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information) describing how Entergy could adapt its company-wide business model to significantly increase deployment of distributed-scale non-carbon-emitting electricity resources as a means of reducing societal greenhouse gas emissions and protecting shareholder value.
Shareholders suggest that the report consider revenue models for significantly increased deployment of distributed non-carbon-emitting electricity resources for commercial, industrial and residential customers (including but not limited to community solar, energy efficiency, demand response, and electric car charging stations).
Entergy doesn’t comment publicly on shareholder resolutions. As You Sow, on the other hand, was quick to post a press release after the Arjuna proposal failed to garner more than 37 percent of the total vote. Trying to make a silk purse out of the pig’s ear of defeat, AYS writes:
Entergy, which has the 16th highest carbon emissions of U.S. utilities, has been slow to recognize and adapt to [market] changes, and in one study ranked near last on renewable energy sales, incremental energy efficiency adoption, and last on annual energy efficiency.
Your writer’s former journalism instructors would’ve had a field day with the unsourced “one study” comment. Additionally, the science board of advisors with whom he has worked would’ve questioned the context of everything else in the paragraph. As for your writer, I question whether – had the Arjuna proposal passed – the inherent increased costs would’ve benefitted fellow shareholders whose 2016 first-quarter per share decreased 37 cents compared to the first quarter of 2015; Entergy’s 2.8 million customers and 30,000 employees; and Entergy, which saw first-quarter earnings decrease by $68 million compared to 2015’s first-quarter.
Arjuna’s stated mission:
Our mission is twofold but integrated. Through our research and activism, we seek to evolve the financial ecosystem by advancing an understanding of what sustainability means for investor returns and corporate profitability. We bring the fruits of those efforts to our clients in the form of the most diverse, sustainable, profitable and suitable investment opportunities on offer.
How any of their efforts could even remotely accomplish the folderol above is beyond all comprehension.