Coca-Cola Co. is under pressure from shareholders about the safety of bisphenol A used in the epoxy resin that lines its aluminum beverage cans.
More than 25 percent of Coke shareholders voted for a resolution that asks the company to disclose to investors how it is responding to public concerns about BPA, and to outline a plan to develop alternative can linings.
Coke stood by what it said is the safety of BPA, and pointed out that 74 percent of its shareholders voted against the April 27 proposal. The company also said it supports efforts to develop alternatives to BPA, and insisted that a written report to shareholders would only duplicate what is on its website.
While we are respectful of the proponents' requests [for a written report], we believe the report requested would not have provided additional or useful information to our share owners beyond what is already publicly available on our website, said the company in a statement emailed to Plastics News.
Coke addresses the safety of BPA in 12 paragraphs and 459 words in the sustainability section of its website related to citizenship, challenges and opportunities.
If we had any concerns about the safety of our packaging, we would not use it, Coke said.
As You Sow Foundation a shareholder activist group that introduced the resolution in conjunction with Domini Social Investments and Trillium Asset Management Corp. has a different perspective.
Coke has become the industry laggard on BPA and that's a bad message to send to investors, said Michael Passoff, senior strategist at As You Sow, in a statement issued after the vote.
He pointed to a study by As You Sow and Green Century Capital Measurement, released in October, that graded 22 packaging firms on efforts to eliminate BPA. The report, Seeking Safer Packaging, gave F grades to eight companies including Coke. Other companies, such as Hain Celestial, ConAgra and Heinz, received A's and General Mills a B+ for their efforts to eliminate BPA in can linings.
This is the second straight year that more than 20 percent of Coke shareholders voted to ask the company for a written report on BPA. Some 22 percent voted for a similar resolution in 2010.
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, Passoff said. 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.
The resolution also asked Coke to address what the company is doing to maintain leadership and public trust on this issue. The effort was supported by two of the nation's largest proxy advisers, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass Lewis & Co., and several institutional investors including California Public Employees Retirement System, one of the largest pension funds globally.