In a watershed moment and a huge victory over environmentalists, General Electric has agreed to stop projects that are designed solely for the purpose of carbon dioxide reductions to please those who lobby for climate change concessions.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank which has been fighting GE for years because of GE’s liberal bias under CEO Jeffrey Immelt, scored a huge victory after receiving the commitment from General Electric.
Late in 2013, the National Center submitted a shareholder proposal as part of GE’s 2014 proxy statement and annual meeting materials. 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 … given 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.
Justin Danhof, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project, was delighted, saying:
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.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.
Normally huge publicly-held companies exclude shareholder proposals from going public, as they can petition the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude the proposals for technical and substantive violations of federal guidelines. But this time, GE allowed the proposal by the National Center to be publicized. Danhof said:
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. We applaud GE for codifying its dedication to free-market principles and shareholder value. More companies should take cues from GE on this issue.
GE added, “The plain language of the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) 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.”
The list of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s battles with GE is extensive, including:
- At a 2008 shareholder meeting, the National Center targeted GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt about GE dealing with Iran, calling GE’s actions “blood money.” Immelt conceded that GE would stop doing business with Iran.
- At a 2009 GE shareholder meeting, the National Center went after Immelt because GE’s NBC television had a clear left-wing bias and a crony partnershio with Barack Obama to push for green energy legislation. The National Center staffer asking the question had his microphone turned off. Immelt then targeted news outlets that reported the story for retaliation.
- In 2010, National Center President David Ridenour joined two other staffers to target Immelt over GE’s lobbying for cap-and-trade global warming legislation, ObamaCare, and MSNBC’s clear left-wing agenda. Immelt refused to answer.
- In 2010, the National Center accused Immelt of cynically using a celebration for President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday to pander to conservatives.
- At GE’s 2011 shareholder meeting, the National Center sought 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 requested that GE reveal what kind of financial risks it faced from climate change regulations.
- In December 2011, National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour chastised GE for pushing a de facto ban on the traditional incandescent light bulb to please global warming partisans.
- At the 2012 GE shareholder meeting, the Free Enterprise Project aggressively pursued Immelt for the conflict of interest created by his position as chairman of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness while he was GE’s CEO. Immelt, incredibly, claimed there was no conflict.
- At the 2013 GE shareholder meeting, Danhof requested of Immelt that he think over 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.” Immelt agreed he would take a look.
The new concession by GE may have been in the works for some time; in 2011, Immelt told an MIT Enterprise Forum audience that he had “lost interest in calling on the United States to develop a more comprehensive energy policy.” National Center President David Ridenour responded, “talk is cheap.”
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. Not only is this a victory for General Electric’s shareholders and employees, it is a victory for all Americans.
Amy Ridenhour added: