Investors Are Calling on Climate Action

Institutional investors are continuing to flag votes during this proxy season at Climate Action 100+ focus companies to bring attention to key shareholder resolutions that encourage more robust climate action. This includes management proposals, where, just this week, Climate Action 100+ flagged votes for directors at four focus companies. Informed by five years of investor engagement supported by Climate Action 100+ including high shareholder votes in recent years, these director votes seek to improve corporate governance on climate issues to mitigate exposure to climate risk.

Climate Action 100+, of which Ceres is one of five investor network partners, flags key shareholder proposals and other votes for investors to consider when they vote their proxies. This season, the initiative has (to date) flagged 17 shareholder proposals and signatory-declared votes on management proposals at six companies related to company progress against the expectations of Climate Action 100+. In addition to more robust corporate governance on climate, investors are calling for disclosure on key issues including greenhouse gas emissions targets, transition plans including policies to ensure a just transition for workers and communities, and reporting on methane measurements.

Mercy Investment Services is urging shareholders to vote against the reelection of three directors at Valero for failure to adequately manage the risks that climate change and the energy transition pose to its core business of refining and selling fossil fuels. After nearly a decade of dialogue, and more than four years of engagement with Valero's senior management, there has been limited progress on aligning with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). Forecasts from the International Energy Agency indicate that the global demand for petroleum liquids, including refined products such as Valero's core transportation fuels, is expected to shrink in the coming decades, and Valero lags its peers in setting out a transition plan that includes lower carbon energy sources. Valero's annual general meeting is on May 9.

At Chevron, Wespath Benefits and Investments is urging shareholders to vote against the election of two directors. This is due to the company's failure to provide a meaningful response to a shareholder resolution approved by a majority of the company's shareholders concerning climate-related lobbying and a failure to establish sufficient governance to address risks from misalignment between the company's lobbying practices and its stated support of the Paris Agreement. Chevron's annual general meeting is on May 31.

"One of the main roles of corporate boards is to ensure that companies take the long view on matters of strategy. For oil and gas companies, while current product demand may be robust, the long-term holds significant risks to that demand as the world decarbonizes," said Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres. "Boards that do not take these risks into account are simply not doing their jobs. Boards that ignore significant shareholder votes on climate issues or refuse to engage seriously with the investors who filed them, are placing investors and their own companies at real financial risk."

The Church of England Pensions Board is calling for votes against the reelection of members of the supervisory board at Volkswagen AG due to failure to produce requested disclosure on lobbying as well as an update to their targets during fiscal year 2022. The Church of England Pensions Board has been engaging with Volkswagen AG (VW) for over four years on its approach to climate change, urging the company to set stronger emissions reduction targets and to provide public disclosure on its lobbying activities regarding climate change policy. VW's GHG targets and transparency regarding climate lobbying lags its German peers-including Mercedes Benz and BMW, which both have produced lobbying disclosures and have been independently assessed as having stronger short- and medium-term emissions reduction targets by the Transition Pathway Initiative. Volkswagen's annual general meeting is on May 10.

American Manufacturing Resurgence in 2023

An accelerating number of CEOs whose companies depend on manufacturing to produce and deliver their goods are planning or have already successfully re-shored some of their overseas operations, the latest quarterly survey on American manufacturing resilience finds. The poll, a joint effort with Forbes, Xometry and veteran polling firm John Zogby Strategies, tracks CEO and decision-maker sentiment at more than 150 leading companies nationally and finds that 82% of CEOs have or are actively embracing reshoring strategies, up significantly from 55% in the previous survey fielded in January.

Fueling the reshoring strategy is growing optimism in American manufacturing. The survey finds that more CEOs – 71% now vs 64% in Q1 – believe there is enough manufacturing capacity in America to address the world’s supply chain concerns. As they bring manufacturing closer to home, CEOs and their management teams are making good on their promise to embrace technology, especially AI, to modernize their operations and future-proof their businesses. While 59% of CEOs saying investing in digital/automated workflows is their #1 strategy, a growing majority – 51% – are now investing in AI, significantly ahead of robotics, at 30%. Nearly all CEOs and decision-makers (97%) said they believe AI will play a large role in their future operations.

For those companies investing in AI, 68% have seen a significant ROI while just 27% of respondents say more time is required before they see any significant return. Only 5% are still developing AI for their operations.

“CEOs are optimistic about the future of American manufacturing and business in general, and are increasingly embracing AI and other digital tools to navigate a constantly changing environment,” said Randy Altschuler, CEO of Xometry. “The pandemic, the global supply chain crisis and now the emergence of AI on a wide scale are combining to accelerate manufacturing’s digital transformation and reinject much needed resources into the more than 500,000 small- and medium manufacturers across the country. All of the ingredients are there to make American manufacturing as strong as it has ever been.”

“After three consecutive quarterly surveys measuring how manufacturing CEOs are allocating their capital and resources, it's clear why a vast majority are optimistic despite major headwinds: they are effectively leading industry into the digital age,” said Jeremy Zogby, Managing Partner of Zogby Strategies.

When it comes to the economy, executive sentiment remains positive, despite the recent banking crisis. Eighty-seven percent are firmly committed to their original 2023 strategic plans and 97% say the future's looking bright or that they see light at the end of the tunnel, up slightly from 95% in the last survey. Still, the vast majority of CEOs and corporate decision-makers – 89% – now say that a recession is likely or very likely to occur this year and more than half – 54% – say the Federal Reserve should lower interest rates.

Additional survey findings include:

- 84% of the companies embracing AI are deploying the technology to solve supply chain management/operations; 76% for manufacturing procurement; 58% for digital procurement; 57% for quality control, and 40% for job management/automation;

- When it comes to robotics, 44% are developing autonomous mobile robots; 33% for articulated robots, and 22% for automated guided vehicles;

- 39 percent of CEOs are expected to hire more, while 56% will maintain their employee current staffing levels. Less than 5% said they are considering a reduction in their workforce.

- 58% of decision-makers said they are increasing wages this year; 38% are maintaining current wage levels, and only 3% said they are decreasing.

Xometry’s two-sided marketplace plays a vital role in the rapid digital transformation of the manufacturing industry, connecting enterprise buyers with manufacturers who build the big ideas that fuel the global economy. Xometry’s AI-driven instant quoting engine, cloud-based software and digital sourcing tools are deeply embedded with procurement managers, buyers and engineers on one side and thousands of manufacturers on the other side. Xometry’s proprietary technology shortens development cycles, drives efficiencies within corporate environments and helps stabilize supply chains to make them more resilient.

About John Zogby Strategies

A full suite veteran survey research company known for accuracy, quick turnaround and vast experience polling in 80+ countries covering a wide sector including politics, market research, branding, and trendspotting.

About Xometry

Xometry (NASDAQ:XMTR) powers the industries of today and tomorrow by connecting the people with big ideas to the manufacturers who can bring them to life. Xometry’s digital marketplace gives manufacturers the critical resources they need to grow their business while also making it easy for engineers and purchasers at small and large enterprise companies to tap into global manufacturing capacity and create locally resilient supply chains.

Shell USA Inc finalizes acquisition of Volta Inc

Shell USA, Inc., a subsidiary of Shell plc, has completed the previously announced acquisition of Volta Inc. (Volta) in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately USD $169 million. With this acquisition, Shell now owns and operates one of the largest public electric vehicle (EV) charging networks in the U.S. The closing of the transaction occurred after receiving various regulatory clearances and approval from Volta's stockholders.

Volta provides Shell with an existing public charging network of over 3,000 charge points at destination sites (shopping centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) across 31 U.S. states and territories, a development pipeline of more than 3,400 additional charge points, and capabilities to continue developing, operating, and monetizing EV charging infrastructure.

"We want to make charging as convenient as possible for our customers," said István Kapitány, Executive Vice President of Shell Mobility. "As demand for EV charging continues to grow, destination sites will play a key role in meeting people where they spend a great deal of time: the store, the gym, and everywhere in-between. Beyond providing a charging service, Volta specializes in generating advertising revenues from screens embedded into the charge point, adding a source of non-fuel revenue from sites both in the U.S. and globally."

Volta's advertising capability and early mover advantage have allowed the company to secure prime spots and portfolio-level contracts with site hosts in high-value, high-traffic markets. While most of Volta's current revenue is generated through advertising, there are plans to increase the number of fast charging DC outlets with a paid charging model.

The acquisition enables Shell to scale its existing network and offerings to better participate in the long-term EV charging market opportunity within the U.S.

2023 Toyota U.S. Alpine Championships

Sun Valley Resort is proud to announce that the Toyota U.S. Alpine Championships presented by Stifel kicks off April 1 and welcomes elite and next generation ski races vying for spots on the Stifel U.S. Alpine Ski Team. The racing event, which runs April 2-5, is the final competition on the hotly contended US national ski racing circuit, and is the culmination of a season-long showcase of the best of the best in US ski racing athleticism.

Sun Valley will welcome both men and women competing in slalom, giant slalom and super-G events. The course in Sun Valley has a storied history of alpine racing, having hosted the U.S. Alpine Championships previously in 2018 and 2016 and having tested hundreds of local and visiting athletes with its technical and challenging terrain over the years. The award-winning grooming and steeps contribute to the long list of merits that makes Sun Valley the perfect choice for this event.

Stifel U.S. Alpine Ski Team athletes expected to compete at the Toyota U.S. Alpine Championships presented by Stifel will include 2022 Olympic silver medalist Ryan Cochran-Siegle and 2023 World Championships gold medalist River Radamus, as well as local Sun Valley athletes Ryder Sarchett, Jack Smith and Dasha Romanov. The athletes will be racing for national titles, as well as increased prize money, courtesy of Stifel.

"Sun Valley Resort could not be more excited to welcome back the U.S. Alpine Championships and the incredible athletes who will lay it all on the line to capture national titles," said Pete Sonntag, Sun Valley Resort GM and VP. "Our rich ski racing history and legendary terrain will provide an awesome backdrop to watch current stars like Ryan Cochran-Siegle and River Radamus go at it with America's best, including our own hometown heroes."

Saturday, April 1, starts the week of events with training opportunities for racers and a sponsor village and live apres music in Warm Springs Plaza. Sunday, April 2, the racing kicks off with men's and women's super-G followed by Clicquot in the Snow Party at Warm Springs and the Opening Ceremony at Town Square in Ketchum featuring a Parade of Athletes and free concert by Lowdown Brass Band. Men's and women's slalom will run on Monday, April 3, women's giant slalom on Tuesday, April 4, and men's giant slalom on Wednesday, April 5; each day's races will be followed by awards and live music in the Warm Springs Plaza.

"The Stifel U.S. Alpine Ski Team is very excited to return to Sun Valley for the 2023 Toyota U.S. Alpine Championships presented by Stifel for the first time since 2018," said U.S. Ski & Snowboard CEO Sophie Goldschmidt. "Not only will many of the best alpine skiers in the country be competing for coveted national titles, but it's an amazing opportunity to inspire the next generation of ski racers who can see their favorite athletes up close on a resort that has helped produce so many champions."

Sun Valley Resort is thrilled to offer two VIP packages for the Toyota U.S. Alpine Championships presented by Stifel. One VIP package includes Sun Valley lodging at a premium rate and one four-day all-access pass for $900, which will be capped at 100 participants. The VIP Pass includes access to an exclusive viewing area for the races; complimentary food and beverage options; one day of Early Up access, allowing participants to ski or ride on Bald Mountain before the race festivities kick-off and the mountain is open to the public; a meet & greet, photos and signing with race participants; and a coveted U.S. Ski & Snowboard and SVR Swag Bag. To book the VIP Package with lodging, interested parties can call Sun Valley Reservations at (800) 786-8259. Spectators can book the four-day VIP Pass online.

Local ski racing non-profit organization, Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) is seeking nearly 200 volunteers to support the event between March 31 and April 5 across a wide spectrum of positions. Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to register for the volunteer crew online. Volunteers will receive a one-day Sun Valley lift ticket voucher valid through 12/30/2024 for each shift completed.

Sun Valley Resort was founded in 1936 as America's first destination ski resort. Located in the Idaho mountains, it is truly a four-season resort with a wide array of activities. With more than 3,400 vertical feet and over 2,300 acres of skiable terrain, Sun Valley offers skiers and boarders an exceptional and varied experience. Bald Mountain has 12 chairlifts, 100 runs, and family and beginner-friendly Dollar Mountain offers two high-speed quads, a terrain park- and the Silver Dollar Carpet for ease of access and learning appeal. Sun Valley is a member of The Grand America Hotels and Resorts family. Sister properties include Snowbasin Ski Resort, The Grand America Hotel, Little America Hotel (all Salt Lake City, Utah); The Westgate Hotel, San Diego, Calif.; Little America Flagstaff, Ariz.; Little America, Wyo., and Little America, Cheyenne, Wyo.