Firms Dumps Sunoco Stock for ‘Sustainability’ Reasons

Harrington Investments, Inc., (HII) a socially responsible investment advisory firm, has announced that it is divesting of Sunoco Corporation stock. The divestment follows several years of unproductive engagement with the company to improve corporate governance, specifically regarding issues related to sustainability.

Earlier this year Sunoco opposed a resolution to create a board committee on sustainability. Sunoco argued that such issues are already overseen by what was then the Board’s Public Affairs Committee. That committee, whose name – but nothing else – was later changed in response to shareholder pressure, is charged with the mission of “(providing) advice and oversight to management in management’s efforts to perform in a manner in which the Company’s Constituencies will view the Company as a responsible corporate citizen…”

Sunoco convinced the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to allow the company to remove the proposal from the 2008 Shareholder ballot so that owners were not allowed to vote on the issue.

“I have been consistently disappointed in Sunoco’s management. They fail to understand that sustainability is not just a matter of stakeholder management. As might be reflected in the company’s dismal performance, issues related to sustainability pose strategic threats and opportunities to Sunoco that the board of directors, in their role as fiduciaries, are charged with considering,” said John Harrington, CEO of Harrington Investments.

Harrington Investments has recently introduced similar resolutions at Apple Inc., Kimberly Clark, and Intel Corporation.

As resource scarcity, climate change, and environmentally toxicity become increasingly taxing on the global economy, corporations are facing ever more strident demands to reform how they approach such issues.

HII has owned stock for client accounts since 1999.

Judyth Piazza
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