Following requests from its shareholders, home improvement superstore Lowe's announced Monday that it was making significant progress towards reducing its carbon footprint and increasing the energy efficiency of its stores nationwide.
The New York State Common Retirement Fund (the Fund) and Boston Common Asset Management had communicated with the company in preparation for a possible shareholder proposal seeking lower emissions targets, but Lowe's proactive steps made the formal proposal unnecessary. Building on existing commitments, Lowe's also announced it will study the feasibility of procuring renewable energy to power its stores.
"Lowe's is to be commended for responding to shareholders' climate risk concerns and lowering its non-renewable energy usage," said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, trustee of the Fund. "Climate change poses challenges throughout the marketplace and businesses in every sector need to take steps that reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the environment."
"We commend Lowe's for committing to explore clean energy investments for its stores in addition to its robust energy efficiency program," said Steven Heim, Managing Director of Boston Common Asset Management. "We encourage Lowe's to be an industry leader by lowering costs and shrinking its environmental footprint through sourcing clean, renewable energy and boosting energy productivity."
"As shareholders, we are proud to see Lowe's take concrete steps toward a more sustainable future," said Keith Mestrich, President and CEO of Amalgamated Bank, which has initiated similar conversations with Lowe's to lower the company's emissions. "We believe all companies should make environmental sustainability a key focus in how they approach business. By aligning with the carbon reduction objectives outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Lowe's is showing its commitment to the environment and to a future of sustainable growth and long term returns to shareholders. We look forward to seeing Lowe's continued progress and encourage others to follow their example."
"This agreement with Lowe's demonstrates the power of shareholder activism and the ability of shareholders, whether large or small, to work with corporations, like Lowe's to help solve social and environmental issues while increasing corporate profitability," said David Brook, a Lowe's shareholder who drafted the initial 2016 shareholder proposal to the company.
"Businesses know they aren't immune to the impacts of climate change, and they're increasingly stepping up to do their part to reduce those impacts," said Winston Vaughan, senior manager of renewable energy at the sustainability nonprofit organization Ceres. "We welcome the announcement from Lowe's as it is a step in the right direction and we look forward to working with them in the coming months."
A new Ceres report found that 64 percent of the largest 600 U.S. companies have committed to reducing their carbon footprint, and almost a third have commitments to transition to clean energy.
About the New York State Common Retirement Fund
The New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third largest public pension fund in the United States with estimated assets of $209.1 billion as of Dec. 31, 2017. The Fund holds and invests the assets of the New York State and Local Retirement System on behalf of more than one million state and local government employees and retirees and their beneficiaries. The Fund has consistently been ranked as one of the best managed and best funded plans in the nation. The Fund's fiscal year ends March 31, 2018.
For access to state and local government spending and more than 50,000 state contracts, visit www.openbooknewyork.com. The easy-to-use website was created by DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.