Oracle Board Votes No on 'Green' Committee

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In addition to the media flurry around former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd joining Oracle's executive suite and board of directors, the company is also getting flack for unanimously voting down a shareholder proposal to create a board committee that focuses on sustainability.


According to InfoWorld, the committee proposed by shareholder John Harrington would "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 board dismissed the proposal as unnecessary and duplicative of the company's executive-level "environmental steering committee." The committee meets regularly to review progress and recommend changes or new actions regarding environmental issues and reports those conclusions to a director, who then reports to the entire board as needed.


Harrington, however, doesn't think that's enough. He says writing the board-level committee into the company's bylaws will ensure that the company takes those issues seriously because they will be legally bound to do so. The story says any other approach is "meaningless" in Harrington's opinion.


Though Harrington's proposal did not come about as a result of the new financial reform legislation-this is not the first time or the first company at which he has made the proposal-the legislation does give shareholders more power. They will be able to nominate directors and have more say on compensation issues.


Boards responsible for all kinds of public companies should be prepared to address shareholder proposals, and they should probably do one better than Oracle did here and be willing to have dialogue with shareholders on the issues.