Corporations are going to have to get used to shareholders taking them to task about the existential challenge of climate change. In this case, the shareholders were correct — buying carbon offsets while increasing carbon emissions just won't make the cut.
With a proponent of the measure arguing that carbon offsets alone are insufficient, Booking Holdings’ shareholders approved an advisory measure — that the company opposed — to have Booking conduct an annual climate transition report.
The vote was 19.23 million shareholders in favor of such a report and 14.84 million opposed. There were more than 180,000 abstentions, and 1.43 million broker non-votes.
Speaking at Booking’s annual shareholder meeting June 3, sustainability advocate David Shugar pointed to Booking’s 2020 sustainability report in which it claimed it became carbon neutral that year, and he said without Booking actually reducing its carbon emissions, reliance on carbon offsets “is insufficient.”
“The use of carbon offsets, instead of actual emission reduction targets, makes it difficult to solve climate change at a global level and does not prepare the company to meet the challenges and opportunities of a carbon-constrained economy,” Shugar said.
Climate activists maintain that failure to adequately address a company’s carbon footprint can have a materially adverse impact on a company’s financials.
In recommending that shareholders vote down the advisory proposal, however, Booking stated: “We intend to remain carbon neutral in our operations moving forward, and look forward to making progress on our sustainability strategy, including diversity and inclusion and sustainable travel.”
Another shareholder proposal that called for Booking to conduct an annual vote on the company’s climate strategies and policies was defeated. That vote was 11.67 million in favor, 19.47 million opposed, and there were more than 3.1 million abstentions, and 1.43 million broker non-votes.
Booking Holdings opposed that shareholder proposal, as well.
Booking Holdings couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the shareholder votes.
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Photo credit: This 2009 photo released by Extreme Ice Survey shows Birthday Canyon in Greenland during the filming of 'Chasing Ice.' Booking Holdings lost a share holder vote June 3, 2021 calling for it to issue an annual climate transition report. James Balog / Associated Press/Extreme Ice Survey