21 Feb 2014 Leading Free-Market Activists Score Major Concession on Global Warming-Related Spending from General Electric
After Years of Fighting Disclosures, Lobbying for Energy Subsidies and Pushing for Government Control of Carbon Emissions, GE Formally Agrees to End Projects Designed Solely to Seek Carbon Dioxide Reductions Due to Climate Change Concerns
Washington, D.C. – After years of meetings, shareholder proposals, media campaigns, protests and activism, the National Center for Public Policy Research received a commitment from General Electric that the international conglomerate will no longer engage in any environmental project solely to address so-called climate change concerns.
“General Electric’s pledge to only pursue environmental projects that meet common business criteria is the culmination of years of efforts and a recognition that sustainability and the free market can work in concert,” said Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project. “For years, GE has been the poster boy for crony capitalism and corporate America’s green energy cheerleader. Now, GE shareholders have confirmation that the company’s strategies will henceforth be led by true market forces and not by blind adherence to global warming zealotry.”
Late last year, the National Center submitted a shareholder proposal for inclusion in GE’s 2014 proxy statement and annual meeting materials that sought certain commitments regarding the company’s sustainability operations and carbon dioxide reduction efforts. The proposal “request[ed] that the Board of Directors adopt a policy that General Electric not undertake any energy savings or sustainability project for the sole goal of seeking carbon dioxide emissions reductions due to climate change concerns, except as required by law.”
The proposal noted, in part, that “[g]iven the Company’s goal of reducing energy use (carbon dioxide emissions) and its admission that balancing this task with common business metrics is ‘difficult at best,’ shareholders are concerned that the Company may make some decisions in which the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is a higher priority than maximizing financial returns.”
Typically, General Electric and other publicly-held companies work to ensure that shareholder proposals – especially those perceived as critical of a company’s operations – never see the light of day. Companies have the right to petition the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude proposals for a myriad of technical and substantive violations of federal guidelines. Corporations such as GE usually hire expensive law firms to combat shareholder proponents.
“Rather than contesting the National Center’s free market shareholder proposal, GE’s management team made the strategic decision to amend its corporate documents to align with the parameters of our proposal,” explained Danhof. “We applaud GE for codifying its dedication to free-market principles and shareholder value. More companies should take cues from GE on this issue.”
Officially, GE revised its corporate documents and “its policy statements regarding Corporate Social Responsibility (the ‘CSR Policy’) to explicitly set forth the Company’s policy that it will not undertake any energy saving or sustainability project solely to address the issue of climate change.”
After the change, GE unequivocally stated that “[t]he plain language of the CSR Policy thus makes clear that the Company will not embark on any energy savings or sustainability initiative where the sole goal is to address climate change concerns.”
To read the entire exchange between the National Center and General Electric as catalogued on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s website, go here.
This year’s victory for the National Center for Public Policy Research comes after years of shareholder activism directed towards GE’s destructive environmental policies and other crony practices.
The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project has aggressively fought liberalism at GE for the past six years. At 2008’s shareholder meeting, for example, the National Center confronted GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt about the company’s dealings with Iran, calling them “blood money.” Immelt responded that GE was in the process of getting out of business dealings with Iran.
At the 2009 GE shareholder meeting, the National Center confronted Immelt over left-wing bias at the company’s then-owned NBC television channels and criticized the company’s crony relationship with President Obama that was being used to advance green energy legislation. The company responded by shutting off the microphone as the National Center staff member was still asking the question. In fact, Immelt was so upset by the National Center’s questions that he ordered company-wide retaliation against news outlets that reported the story.
In 2010, three National Center staffers, including National Center President David Ridenour, questioned Immelt over the company’s lobbying in favor of cap-and-trade global warming legislation, ObamaCare, and the liberal slant on MSNBC. Immelt refused to answer Ridenour’s question about MSNBC’s extreme anti-conservative bias.
Also in 2010, the National Center called out Immelt for exploiting President Ronald Reagan’s legacy by pandering to conservatives by hosting a celebration commemorating what would have been the 40th President’s 100th birthday.
At GE’s 2011 shareholder meeting, the National Center participated in a rally seeking to oust Immelt as CEO for his support of ObamaCare, President Obama’s stimulus spending bill and federal cap-and-trade legislation. The National Center also submitted a shareholder proposal, which GE fought at the Securities and Exchange Commission, asking the company to disclose the business risks associated with climate change regulations.
In December 2011, National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour also called out GE for its support of a de facto ban on the traditional incandescent light bulb, which was pushed on the public as an anti-global warming measure.
At the 2012 GE shareholder meeting, the Free Enterprise Project questioned the conflicts arising from Immelt’s position as chairman of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness while still serving as GE’s CEO. Immelt, incredibly, claimed there was no conflict.
At last year’s GE shareholder meeting, Danhof asked Immelt if he would consider a proposal “to repeal ObamaCare’s medical device tax while keeping the move financially balanced by simultaneously ending taxpayer subsidies to the wind power industry.” Striking a more collegial tone with the National Center, Immelt said the proposal was “interesting” and agreed that the idea was worth considering.
As far back as 2011, Immelt began making some concessions that GE might someday abandon its crony push for cap-and-trade global warming legislation. He told an MIT Enterprise Forum audience that he had “lost interest in calling on the United States to develop a more comprehensive energy policy.” But as National Center President David Ridenour pointed out at the time, “talk is cheap.”
But in adopting the National Center’s proposal this year, GE formally amended its corporate documents and can be held to account if it strays from its commitment to abandon all projects that are solely focused on climate change concerns.
“All too often, shareholders find themselves facing almost insurmountable odds when they believe the company they have invested in has strayed from free-market principles. In this case, the company has done the right thing,” said Danhof. “Not only is this a victory for General Electric’s shareholders and employees, it is a victory for all Americans.”
“For the past quarter-century, government and corporate efforts have plowed billions into the promotion and exploitation of the human-caused catastrophic global warming theory,” added Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “The result has been higher taxes, greater deficits, higher prices, job loss and greater government control over our daily lives – all in service of a theory based on computer models that are not coming true. More and more people around the world are waking up to the fact that the global warming theory is about hot air, all right, but that a startlingly high percentage of that hot air is coming from people pushing the theory, not hardworking people going about their daily business. Slowly but surely, the expensive, job-killing and liberty-encroaching global warming leviathan is being defeated. We commend General Electric for taking this step and encourage other corporations to follow its lead.”
The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is one of the leading free-market activist groups in America. In 2013, representatives of its Free Enterprise Project attended 33 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and many other important public policy issues.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.
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