OMAHA, Neb. – A group of environmentalists is proposing that Warren Buffett’s company sell off its investments in Phillips 66 and other companies tied to fossil fuels over 12 years.
Nebraskans for Peace said Thursday it had submitted a formal proposal for Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholders to consider next spring. The same group failed last year with a different proposal related to climate change.
Buffett didn’t immediately respond to questions about the proposal Thursday. His opinion of the idea will be important because he controls nearly one-third of Berkshire’s voting stock.
The proposal would apply only to Berkshire’s stock investments, such as its nearly 81 million shares of Phillips 66 stock. But the proposal would not apply to the companies it owns outright, which include several major utilities — such as MidAmerican Energy in Iowa, NV Energy in Nevada and PacifiCorp in the Northwest — and specialty chemical maker Lubrizol.
Tim Rinne with Nebraskans for Peace said he hopes Buffett and Berkshire shareholders will take a stand at next May’s annual meeting because the renowned investor could have a big impact on public opinion.
“It would be great if Berkshire shareholders would step up and divest of its fossil fuel investments,” Rinne said.
Earlier this year, Buffett told shareholders that he didn’t think it made sense to follow the group’s first proposal requiring a report detailing the risks climate change creates for Berkshire’s insurance companies.
Buffett has said that the fact that Berkshire generally writes insurance policies for one-year periods allows it to regularly re-evaluate risks, such as climate change. Buffett also resisted the group’s calls to take a public stance in favour of measures to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.
The conglomerate Buffett leads as chairman and CEO owns more than 90 companies. Besides utilities, it owns Geico and several other insurers, manufacturers of aviation parts and precision tools and clothing, furniture, ice cream, private jet and jewelry companies.
It also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co., IBM and Wells Fargo & Co.