ExxonMobil shareholders backed a hedge fund opposed to the company's approach to climate change issues by replacing board members Wednesday. It's the first such rebellion the company has ever faced, CNN Business reports. The hedge fund, Engine No. 1, won two board seats, and the races for two others were not yet decided. Activists have been working for years to force the company to change its environmental policies and move faster. The election was a defeat for Exxon's chairman and chief executive, Darren Woods, who defended the company's record. "We welcome the new directors," Woods told shareholders at the meeting. "While there is still more to do, we are proud of the progress we have made to reduce emissions and clear plans for further reductions."
Engine No. 1 was started last year and has lined up pension funds including the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. They want Exxon to make major investements in wind and solar energy, and other renewables, as European oil companies—including BP—have done, per the New York Times. The company instead says its strategy is to capture carbon from industrial facilities and store it deep underground. The activist investors aren't pleased with Exxon's financial performance, either. But the activists' effort marks the first proxy campaign at a major American company centered around shifting from fossil fuels. It sounds an alarm for other fossil fuel companies, as well. "Investors are no longer standing on the sidelines," a CalPERS official said. "This is a day of reckoning." (Read more fossil fuel stories.)