About 55 percent of shareholders at General Mills Inc. voted Sept. 27 for a resolution urging the company to reduce its use of plastic packaging.
The proposal from environmental investment group Green Century Capital Management wanted the company, over time, to reduce its absolute plastic use, reduce virgin plastic and increase its use of post-consumer recycled plastic.
"The bottom line is that companies know they need to cut plastic, and many are starting to act," said Annie Sanders, director of shareholder advocacy at Green Century, in a news release. "This majority vote from shareholders gives General Mills marching orders to establish a baseline plastic footprint so the company can assess what's possible. Investors, consumers and the planet demand it."
The company recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal, claiming that it "will design 100 percent of packaging to be recycled or reusable by 2030, by weight."
General Mills also said its plastic packaging is needed to maintain food safety and shelf life, and it said it's been recognized as a leader for packaging recyclability and pointed to its investment in May in a $9.2 million dollar plastics film recycling plant in Minnesota.
But the Green Century proposal stated that General Mills has no quantitative goal or timeline for reducing its use of plastic packaging.
It also said that only 9 percent of plastic made in the last 60 years has been recycled and that about 11 million tons of plastic waste is released into the ocean every year.
Green Century said competitors of General Mills such as Kellogg's, Unilever and Procter & Gamble have publicly committed to reduce their plastic packaging by 2025.
Similarly, it said Mondelez and Kraft Heinz have either set or committed to a virgin plastic reduction goal, and it noted that Conagra has set a full plastic elimination goal.
Green Century noted increased regulatory pressure on companies, pointing to Colorado and California passing extended producer responsibility laws this year which require companies to take more responsibility for waste and plastic usage, and it said the issues are becoming more of a conversation piece in other state legislatures.
Green Century has brought plastics related shareholder resolutions against other companies, including Tyson Foods, where 59 percent of shareholders voted for its proposal in February. It's also been involved in similar proposals at Newell Brands, maker of Rubbermaid products, and at online retail giant Amazon.