Over a quarter of Coca-Cola shares have supported a resolution addressing bisphenol-A (BPA) in can linings, as shareholder activist group As You Sow plans action against General Mills and Procter & Gamble this week.
The resolution asking Coca-Cola to disclose its plans around continued use of BPA in beverage can linings was introduced by As You Sow, investment firms Domini Social Investments and Trillium Asset Management Corporation, and several religious institutional investors. It was supported by the nation’s two largest proxy advisors, ISS and Glass Lewis, and institutional investors including the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the world’s largest pension fund.
The measure won support from 26 percent of company shares, up from 22 percent last year.
“Coke has become the industry laggard on BPA and that’s a bad message to send to investors,” says Michael Passoff, Senior Strategist at As You Sow. “Usually 10 percent is enough to move a company to take action, but Coca-Cola’s refusal to address this issue last year is why it is the only company targeted with a BPA container shareholder resolution again this year. Unlike other major can users who are starting to phase out of BPA, Coca-Cola has shown no evidence that it is actively searching for alternatives.”
ISS said, ““Coca-Cola does not make sufficient disclosure on the steps it is taking to address concerns over the use of BPA in the linings of its canned beverages and its role in the efforts to develop alternatives given the growing awareness of potential effects of BPA by consumers and regulatory agencies.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that BPA has been demonstrated as a reproductive, developmental, and systemic toxicant in animal studies. The agency says that while research using standardized toxicity tests indicate that BPA in humans and the environment is below levels of potential concern, some recent studies have shown subtle effects in animals at very low concentrations.
The EPA says it will seek further data and will consider adding BPA to a list of substances of concern, under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
A study from As You Sow and Green Century Capital Measurement last October gave “A” grades to major brands including Hain Celestial, H.J. Heinz, ConAgra, and General Mills for working to eliminate BPA in can linings, while others including Coca-Cola, Del Monte, Kraft and Wal-Mart received “F” scores.
In a separate action this week, As You Sow plans to file resolutions with Procter & Gamble and General Mills, asking the companies to fund recycling programs for packaging waste, GreenBiz reports.
“We’re burning and landfilling 40 million tons of recyclable packaging materials estimated to be worth $15 to $23 billion every year,” As You Sow senior director for corporate responsibility Conrad MacKerron said. “We can no longer afford to discard packaging containing valuable resources. As shareholders we see this as throwing away revenue and we need to stop it immediately.”