Chevron CEO Confronted by Human Rights and Environmental Movement and Shareholders at Annual Meeting
May 30, 2019
At Chevron’s annual meeting today, shareholders and dozens of environmental and human rights organizations told Chevron CEO Michael Wirth that the company must act to change its course of environmental and social irresponsibility.
Amazon Watch, Greenpeace USA, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Stand.Earth, Protect the Protest
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San Ramon, CA – At Chevron’s annual meeting today, shareholders and dozens of environmental and human rights organizations told Chevron CEO Michael Wirth that the company must act to change its course of environmental and social irresponsibility. Five different resolutions supported by shareholders representing billions of dollars in assets under management urged the company to address a wide range of climate change and human rights issues
Michael Wirth, in his second year as CEO, has yet to shift Chevron’s harmful practices and efforts to silence those critical of its operations and abuses.
Thus, Chevron was recently named the “Corporate Bully of the Year” by the Protect the Protest task force for its SLAPP attacks and other legal bullying tactics against individuals who have spoken out about the oil giant’s toxic contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Chevron has not cleaned up or helped the many thousands of Ecuadorians suffering a continual health crisis, after abandoning close to 1000 oil waste pits in Ecuador 27 years ago.
Today, Wirth refused to accept any responsibility at the shareholder meeting and cited Chevron’s retaliatory Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) verdict to claim there’s no scientific evidence of contamination. This despite the fact that the RICO decision explicitly says, “The questions whether and why there is pollution in the Oriente region and whether Chevron’s experts were aware of that simply have nothing to do with the case.” In fact, for the second year in a row, Wirth claimed that the real tragedy in Ecuador was trial lawyers allegedly “taking advantage of” Ecuadorians.
This year, Chevron faces three climate-related resolutions, including one that calls on the company to outline how it will reduce its carbon footprint in line with the Paris climate agreement’s global temperature goals – which would mean bringing its emissions of heat-trapping gases to net zero by mid-century. Chevron recently committed to reducing its operations’ carbon intensity by less than 1% of its 2016 total emissions over the next seven years. Yet this is nowhere near what is needed for the company to fall in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
Chevron is also under increasing pressure to pledge not to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Considered sacred to the Gwich’in Nation and key to their food security and way of life, this delicate wilderness has been protected for generations, until a provision in the 2017 tax bill opened it for oil and gas leasing. The Trump administration has been pushing for drilling on an accelerated schedule ever since, and it hopes to hold a lease sale in the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain as soon as this fall. Chevron has expressed support for the Trump administration’s plans to sell off the coastal plain for drilling, and representatives from the Gwich’in Nation attended today’s meeting to urge Chevron executives to rethink these destructive plans and leave the Arctic Refuge intact.
In spite of Chevron’s efforts to distance itself from Ecuador and other toxic projects around the world, its Richmond refinery is one of California’s biggest polluters, and Chevron refineries across the United States are the largest purchasers and processors of crude oil imported from the Amazon rainforest. The extraction and processing of Amazon crude continues to destroy the climate-protecting rainforest and threaten the rights of indigenous peoples from Ecuador to California.
Challenged by institutional shareholders, climate activists, human rights advocates, and indigenous leaders today, Chevron’s board, CEO, and senior management received yet another wake-up call about the risks of its business model.
Isabella Zizi of Stand.Earth said:
“As someone who grew up in the shadows of the Richmond Chevron refinery, I understand how oil industries like Chevron destroy communities. The corporate and scripted lies to shareholders was heart-wrenching to hear since it seems its only message is to protect the name of the company. Chevron can be on the right side of history and stay away from the Arctic Refuge and move towards a clean energy future. The CEO mentioned that they have been in business for over 140 years and plan to be in business for another 140 years and I am committed to make sure this doesn’t happen.”
Tilisia Sisto, Gwich’in Steering Committee Representative said:
“The traditional territory of my people, the Gwich’in Nation, spans what is now known as the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic. I traveled halfway across the world from my home in Alaska to attend Chevron’s shareholder meeting today, to explain how important the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is to my people and to urge Chevron not to drill in our sacred lands. Yet in response the chairman told shareholders and the board lies about how “clean” and “safe” drilling in the Arctic would be, not the truth about the impact of drilling on my people and on our global climate.”
Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, which is a member of the Protect the Protest Task Force, said:
“Chevron’s litigation strategy is to bully, harass, and intimidate. Because of this, Chevron received Protect the Protest’s Corporate Bully of the Year Award this year. Chevron has been ramping up its bully tactics in what has been described as the ‘vengeance stage’ of its 25-year long legal effort to avoid accountability for oil spills in Ecuador. The Protect the Protest Task Force provides support to people who speak out against corporate bullies like Chevron.”
Paul Paz y Miño, Amazon Watch Associate Director said:
“It was absolutely shocking to witness the outright lies and denial of reality from CEO Michael Wirth. Not only did he belittle the suffering of the communities harmed by Chevron’s deliberate destruction in the Amazon, he refused to even acknowledge the scientific fact of the toxic contamination in Ecuador. I challenged him to be brave enough to at least admit the truth of the contamination and he utterly failed. Hiding behind these transparent lies will not save Chevron from justice as the Ecuadorian people and the global community behind them continue the call for true accountability.”