Oracle board against sustainability proposal

A shareholder wants an executive-level committee formed to monitor green issues

Oracle's board of directors has weighed in against a shareholder proposal calling for the creation of a board-level committee on sustainability, according to the proxy statement for the vendor's upcoming annual meeting.

The committee would "review the company’s corporate policies, above and beyond matters of legal compliance, in order to assess, and make recommendations to enhance, the company’s policy responses to changing conditions and knowledge of the natural environment, including but not limited to, natural resource limitations, energy use, waste disposal, and climate change," according to the proposal.

It was submitted by John Harrington, president and CEO of Harrington Investments, a Napa, California, firm that promotes socially responsible investing. Harrington Investments has made similar requests to other tech companies with some success.

While Oracle has voiced support for green policies, a board-level committee will make sure it will "walk its talk," Harrington's proposal adds.

"What I'm trying to do is get these companies to acknowledge that it is the directors' fiduciary duty to ensure the company's policies are sustainable," Harrington said in an interview Wednesday.

But Oracle's board unanimously opposes Harrington's motion, saying that while it "takes environmental sustainability very seriously," the company's current efforts around the topic are satisfactory.

Oracle already has an environmental steering committee made up of senior executives in various business units, such as supply chain management, IT, real estate and facilities, board members said.

The group "meets regularly to review our progress and status on environmental issues and makes recommendations related to the adoption of corporate sustainability policies and initiatives," they added. Steering committee representatives give updates "to a management Director who, when warranted, reports to the full Board regarding these matters."

Harrington dismissed Oracle's response. "If it's not a legal duty under the bylaws, then it has no legal standing whatsoever. ...There's nothing there to convince me they're doing anything. It's just like voluntary codes of conduct. ... It's meaningless."

Harrington has received no direct response from Oracle, he said. "They didn't even return a phone call. [Oracle CEO] Larry Ellison, in some ways he's sort of like [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs. He's an imperial CEO."

Oracle's annual meeting is scheduled for 6 October.

"I'm sure they have the votes against it," Harrington said. "The question is whether I get enough votes to stay on the ballot next year."

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