Corporate board elections are often routine meetings in which directors are elected with no controversy and no competition. But not so for ExxonMobil this year.

“We saw three members of the Exxon board literally lose their jobs because the company hasn’t done enough to address climate change, which at least in a corporate world, is a very, very big deal,” says Andrew Logan, who directs the oil and gas program at CERES, a coalition of investors and environmental advocates.

He says that as the world transitions to clean energy, companies that rely heavily on fossil fuels face increasing financial risks.

Many investors have been pressuring companies to prepare for a low-carbon future, but U.S. oil and gas companies have largely resisted.

So earlier this year, Exxon shareholders ousted three board directors. They elected three new directors who plan to push the company towards a greater focus on clean energy.

It remains to be seen how much influence they’ll have. But Logan says the election sends a strong signal.

“I think this will have impact well beyond Exxon. I think it shows that investors … are really running out of patience with the slow pace of progress in this industry,” he says. “And I think the Exxon vote has shown that for investors, the gloves have finally come off.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChaveBart Digital Media