A resolution asking grocery chain Kroger Co. to come up with a plan to reduce its plastic packaging nearly passed at the company's annual meeting June 24, with 45 percent of shareholders voting in favor.
Green investment group As You Sow said in a June 29 statement that it urged Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery chain by revenue, to prepare a report by December estimating how much of its plastic packaging is released to the environment from production, disposal and recycling.
The AYS resolution also asked shareholders to require Kroger management to disclose detailed strategies to reduce plastic in packaging.
Similar resolutions at other major companies in recent months resulted in those firms agreeing to sizable cutbacks in the amount of virgin plastic they use. Target Corp. and Keurig Dr Pepper, for example, both announced this year that they have a target of 20 percent reduction in the use of virgin plastic in packaging by 2025, prompting the green shareholder groups to withdraw their resolutions at those companies.
But Kroger instead urged shareholders to vote against resolutions brought by AYS and its partners. Amazon also fought against a plastics shareholder resolution at its annual meeting in late May.
In comments with its annual report, Cincinnati-based Kroger defended its record on packaging pollution, saying it had cut its use of plastic resin by more than 15 million pounds, surpassing a goal of 10 million pounds it set in 2015. It also said it was the first major U.S. grocery retailer to announce it was eliminating plastic bags in its stores, by 2025.
Kroger also joined the Beyond the Bag Initiative with other companies to find plastic bag alternatives, and is part of the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition to try to improve recycling for that resin.
It also said it added 25 percent post-consumer plastic content in some of its water bottles, honey containers and hair care products, and switched some poultry packaging trays from expanded polystyrene to PET, describing EPS as "a material with few recycling end markets and of concern to many customers."
As You Sow said the vote shows solid support among investors for reducing environmental pollution from plastics.
"The results at Kroger demonstrate yet another strong show of support by investors this year challenging companies to elevate the issue of single use plastic pollution and develop credible solutions to the global plastic pollution crisis now," said Conrad MacKerron, AYS senior vice president.
"Kroger has not taken basic corporate accountability actions such as disclosing the amount of plastic it uses, or made recent commitments to cut plastic use as competing retailers like Target and Walmart have done," he said. "It should act swiftly to disclose plastic usage and devise a plan to significantly reduce its reliance on single-use plastics."