Computerworld has reported that the Oracle board has come out against a proposal to establish a Board Committee on Sustainability. The proposal is to be put to the annual meeting by John Harrington, president and CEO of Harrington Investments, a firm that promotes socially responsible investing.
Harrington Investments has made similar requests to other tech companies with some success, including Intel, which we reported on back in April. Intel initially opposed the resolution but ultimately agreed to change their corporate charter to require the Governance and Nominating Committee to report to the Board on corporate responsibility and sustainability performance.
The proposal for the Oracle meeting reads: “There is established a Board Committee on Sustainability. The purpose of the committee is to 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.”
The Oracle Board response is:“Our management considers environmental matters and has developed and actively promotes practices that both minimise resource utilisation and emphasise sustainable resources. For example, management sponsors an executive-level Environmental Steering Committee, which oversees and guides our company-wide environmental sustainability efforts. The Environmental Steering Committee is comprised of senior employees from various business units, including supply chain management, information technology, marketing, public policy, product development, real estate and facilities. …. The Board believes that the Environmental Steering Committee is in the best position to manage these matters on a day-to-day basis with oversight by the Board.”
It’s true that Oracle’s may not be the greenest ICT company out there, but nor is it ignoring the issues. The company points out that:
Oracle was the first software company to participate in the Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Leader Partnership, which sets specific goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The company is a founding member of the Sustainable Silicon Valley Initiative, a program that follows the Kyoto Accord's goals.
As of June 2004, Oracle's office in Reading, UK was certified as an ISO 14001 (Environmental Management Standard) facility.
But it could do more and a Board committee would give the additional focus. When it comes down to it, though, it seems pretty pointless to resist - the company just gets bad publicity for opposing environmental pressures. And you can be sure that sustainability will get greater Board focus in due course. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon ….