Google parent, Alphabet*, pledges greater transparency on use of carbon offsets after Green Century shareholder proposal
Andrea Ranger, Shareholder Advocate, email@example.com, 781-349-2813;
Pam Podger, Communications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-299-9495
Boston, May 4, 2023 – Green Century° withdrew a shareholder proposal with tech giant Alphabet after the company agreed to provide greater visibility into its use of carbon offsets.
Alphabet relies on carbon offsets, also known as carbon credits, to neutralize the emissions it’s not able to eliminate through other methods, such as through energy efficiency or renewable energy. Following the Green Century engagement, the company has now agreed to annually disclose its criteria, approach, and portfolio, including details on project purchases and any relevant certifications related to its purchases of carbon offsets.
Despite earlier commitments and a white paper detailing its strategy for buying “high-quality carbon offsets,” which are known for longevity and verifiability, Alphabet’s full disclosure in 2022 fell short. In a single sentence in its annual environmental report, the company vaguely stated “[We] plan to invest in nature-based and technology-based solutions to neutralize our remaining emissions.”
Relying on carbon offsets to neutralize emissions is currently an area of intense debate. Some academics and NGOs are urging potential buyers to be cautious as research about how different projects absorb carbon, methodology for measuring offsets, and ability to verify the durability of the offsets evolve. At minimum, more robust disclosure may be advised, and the agreement secured by Green Century should help investors better assess Alphabet’s carbon offset purchases.
“I’m pleased that Alphabet sees the value in revisiting its carbon offsets disclosure policy,” said Green Century Funds President Leslie Samuelrich. “Green Century, and I expect many, many investors, value insight into how Alphabet is managing its climate risk. I believe embracing transparency will only help it select offsets wisely and avoid the greenwashing label.”
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has weighed in on the issue. In its proposed climate rule, the Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures, the SEC expresses an interest in learning how companies use carbon offsets to reach their climate-related goals, and the regulator may require companies to disclose their carbon reductions represented by these offsets.
“Alphabet is a leader in many respects – the amount of renewable energy it procures, the energy efficiency it incorporates, and its ability to maintain carbon neutrality. Becoming a leader in carbon offsets seems like a natural step forward,” added Shareholder Advocate Andrea Ranger. “I think our proposal was a wake up call for Alphabet. Investors like us are analyzing corporate climate commitments very closely, and we want to see that claims of emissions reductions using offsets are actually true.”
°Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) is the investment advisor to the Green Century Funds (The Funds). The Green Century Funds are one of the first families of fossil fuel-free, environmentally responsible mutual funds. Green Century hosts an award-winning and in-house shareholder advocacy program and is the only mutual fund company in the U.S. wholly owned by environmental and public health nonprofit organizations.
*As of March 31, 2023, comprised 3.11%, 6.48%, and 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund , the Green Century Equity Fund , and the Green Century International Index Fund, respectively. As of the same date, other securities mentioned were not held in the portfolios of any of the Green Century Funds. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.
The percentage in favor was calculated by (i) dividing the number of votes in support of the proposal by (ii) the sum of the number of votes voted in support of and against the proposal. Abstentions and broker non-votes were not included in the calculation.
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