AT&T – Renewable Energy – 2016
Outcome: Trillium withdrew our proposal following AT&T’s announcement of new renewable energy goals; which coincidentally happened one day after we filed the proposal.
Shareholders request AT&T senior management, with oversight from the Board of Directors, set company-wide quantitative targets by September 2016 to increase renewable energy sourcing and/or production
Sourcing renewable energy will make our company more responsive to a global business environment characterized by heightened public expectations and volatile energy prices. The transition to a low-carbon economy necessary to prevent the most harmful effects of climate change requires companies dramatically reduce their direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We believe investing in renewable energy reduces the company’s exposure to changing energy prices and will move it closer to achieving its GHG reduction targets.
Sustainability practices matter to investors, as effective sustainability management and value creation are strongly linked.
The rapid growth of the digital economy has given the telecommunications sector the opportunity to drive significant change in the demand and consumption of clean energy. With the continued growth of data usage and the corresponding demand for more energy, there is a stronger emphasis on the need for companies to diversify their energy sources. Although energy efficiency is crucial for reducing emissions, there is a limit to how far operational efficiencies can carry a company relative to the reductions needed to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Leading companies within the technology, media, and telecom (TMT) space are increasingly turning to renewable energy to power their operations. Setting strong greenhouse gas reduction targets has also compelled them to invest in renewable energy. Eric Schmidt of Google stated “Much of corporate America is buying renewable energy in some form or another, not just to be sustainable, because it makes business sense, helping companies diversify their power supply, hedge against fuel risks, and support innovation in an increasingly cost-competitive way.”
We believe renewable energy investment is good for companies and for shareholders. A report by the Carbon Disclosure Project found that four out of five companies earn a higher return on carbon reduction investments than on their overall corporate capital expenditures. While generating savings, investing in renewable energy enhances a company’s role as a corporate citizen and strengthens its license to operate – a proactive response to reputational risk.
AT&T previously set renewable energy targets, but failed to renew these after expiring in 2014. AT&T does not currently have renewable energy targets that demonstrate a proactive approach to reducing exposure to volatile energy prices, reducing reputational risk, and meeting the global need for cleaner energy. By setting new renewable energy commitments, the company can strengthen its currently inadequate climate change strategy.
We are concerned AT&T may be lagging behind other TMT peer companies such as Intel, Microsoft, and SAP who have goals to source 100% of their energy needs from renewable sources. Industry peer Sprint will use renewables to meet 10 percent of its energy needs by 2017. These companies have demonstrated the feasibility of investing in renewable energy to reduce emissions and power their businesses.