Putting Climate Change on the Agenda at PNC
Domini does not invest in coal companies, but we may be able to have an influence on that industry through its bankers. PNC Financial Services has been a long-term holding in the Domini Social Equity Fund. As a Pennsylvania-based bank, PNC has a number of large coal-mining clients and has, in the past, directly financed mountaintop coal removal, a destructive practice that adds to the already unacceptable environmental damage done by the coal industry. In 2010, in response to public pressure, PNC adopted a mountaintop removal (MTR) policy prohibiting direct financing of the practice. The bank, however, like many other mainstream banks, continues to service coal-mining clients.
Although we have monitored developments for some time, in 2012 we received an email from a concerned Domini shareholder that pushed us to dig a bit deeper. Although our primary source did not report any new coal financing, we contacted the Rainforest Action Network and learned that, although PNC does not appear to be directly financing MTR, the bank had in fact engaged in a number of recent financial transactions with several coal companies that are the largest MTR practitioners.
We were pleased to join Boston Common Asset Management in filing an important proposal with PNC to address the climate impact of the bank’s financial services, including its lending to coal companies. At PNC’s annual shareholder meeting on April 23, our proposal received a vote of 22.8%, an extremely strong vote for a first-time resolution. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with PNC, where we have been stressing our serious concerns about greenhouse gas emissions produced by the burning of coal, as well as the damaging effects of mountaintop removal coal mining.