Following pressure from a green shareholder activist group, ExxonMobil Chemical Co. agreed 27 March to expand its public reporting around resin pellet spills from its factories.
Under terms of an agreement reached with Oakland, California-based As You Sow, ExxonMobil will begin to report this year on pellet management as part of its sustainability report, giving details on where, how and when it monitors for spills and describing systems it has in place.
AYS submitted a resolution to Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil in December seeking a shareholder vote that would require the company to publish annual reports around its pellet leakage into the environment. But it's now withdrawn that resolution.
AYS said it's pressuring ExxonMobil and other companies in the resin industry because it believes such disclosure will help get a better handle on one source of plastic in the environment. The industry's main program for reducing pellet loss, Operation Clean Sweep, is lacking because it has no public reporting requirements, AYS said.
The group said pellet leakage is estimated to be the second-largest source of direct microplastic pollution in the ocean, by weight.
"We are pleased that ExxonMobil has agreed to do public reporting on plastic pellet spills and management," said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at AYS. "It is important for all industry players to establish similar transparency so stakeholders can get a realistic view of the size and scope of this problem. We hope the other companies we are engaged with will follow its lead."
AYS said ExxonMobil said it did not have any pellet spills last year.
In the agreement with AYS, ExxonMobil said it was committed to zero pellet loss, and has been a member of Operation Clean Sweep since 2008, applying OCS best practices at its facilities worldwide.
It said it would include details on its OCS processes in this year's sustainability report and include pellet spill data starting in 2020.
AYS has also asked DowDupont Inc. and the owners of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. — Chevron Corp. and the Phillips Co. 66 — to make similar reports.
MacKerron said both Chevron and Phillips tried to block their resolutions from coming to a vote. He said both companies asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to toss out the AYS resolution, but the SEC declined to do that, so it will now proceed to shareholder votes.
The 27 March announcement came as a federal court in Texas was in the middle of several days of hearing arguments around a lawsuit brought by an environmental group, seeking millions of dollars in fines against Formosa Plastics over pellet releases from its large complex in Point Comfort.