- THE MAGAZINE
Investors persuaded D.R. Horton Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas, Toll Brothers Inc. in Horsham, PA, Costco Wholesale Corp. in Issaquah, WA and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in White Plains, NY to disclose their strategies and performance on energy efficiency and climate change-related topics. The four companies collectively build thousands of new properties each year, which are especially vulnerable to energy costs for heating, cooling and lighting. Buildings consume 40 percent of all the energy and 70 percent of all the electricity Americans use annually.
Investors requested the reports through shareholder resolutions filed with the companies last fall. While those resolutions were withdrawn in recent weeks, similar requests are still pending with Centex, Boston Properties and Bed Bath & Beyond.
“These companies deserve credit for agreeing to expand their reporting to shareholders on energy efficiency,” said Lance E. Lindblom, president and chief executive officer of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, which filed the shareholder resolutions with D.R. Horton and a half-dozen other companies. “As concerns about rising energy prices and climate change continue to increase, we believe the focus on energy efficiency will intensify. Companies such as D.R. Horton and Costco that think strategically about these issues will be better positioned financially in the years ahead.”
A total of 42 climate-related shareholder resolutions were filed with US companies as part of the 2007 proxy season, the highest number of resolutions ever. The resolutions, coordinated by the Ceres investor coalition and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), were filed with oil producers, electric power companies, coal providers, automakers, insurance companies, banks, retail chains and major builders.
Nathan Cummings Foundation was joined in filing the resolutions by several religious investment funds that are part of ICCR, a group of over 200 religious investment funds, many of which are actively involved in filing climate change shareholder resolutions.
Investors filing with Costco included the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Board of Pensions. “The ELCA is pleased that Costco has shared these efforts on building efficiency with all of their shareholders and the broader public through its public annual report,” said Patricia Zerega, ELCA Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, referring to energy efficiency information the company recently disclosed in its annual report and on its web site.
Also co-filing with Costco were Mennonite Mutual Aid, Progressive Investment Management and the Marianist Providence of the U.S. The United Methodist Church General Board of Pension and Health Benefits was the sole filer with Toll Brothers.
The religious investor filing with Starwood Hotels is the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. “Our conversations with Starwood management showed they have been making progress in energy management, yet had not told their shareholders the extent of their plans to continue this progress,” said Tim Brennan, treasurer of the national denomination. “The company has now agreed to provide a full and comprehensive response to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s annual survey and to report to its shareholders on its continuing progress in its SEC filings and on a special section of its web site.”
D.R. Horton, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, has outlined many of its energy efficiency activities on its web site. Among those, many company divisions have programs that utilize energy efficient roofing materials, siding, furnaces, air conditioners and windows. The company’s Sacramento, CA division has been selected as an Energy Star Partner of the Year winner in 2005 and 2006, the only division of a top 10 US homebuilder to receive this award in both years.
Costco, the nation’s largest membership warehouse club chain, has also outlined its energy efficiency programs on its site. Among their efforts, the company constructs all of its warehouses to meet or exceed energy efficiency standards under California law. This year the company also installed its first large-scale solar panel system in one of its California warehouses. In addition to generating as much as 500 kilowatts of electricity, the roof system helps cool the building by reflecting sunlight. A second solar system will be installed at another California warehouse in the near future.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has been recognized by the US-EPA as an Energy Star Partner of the Year several times for its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Starwood has implemented energy management practices and investments throughout its operations.