May 6, 2014: Fellow shareholders and members of the board, my name is Lucia von Reusner with Green Century Capital Management. On behalf of Green Century and our investors, I am here to urge Kraft Foods* to protect shareholder value by refraining from spending corporate funds to influence election outcomes.
In recent years, corporate contributions to political elections have skyrocketed as limits on corporate spending have loosened. The value to shareholders, however, from this use of company funds is unclear at best, while the brand and reputational risks associated with this activity are increasingly evident.
The increase in corporate spending in politics is deeply unpopular across party lines, with polls indicating that the majority of Americans believe it represents a corrupting force in American politics and would take action against a company that made a contribution they disagreed with. Companies that choose to contribute to controversial public policy issues risk alienating their consumers, and are exposed to significant brand and reputational risks as a result.
For example, Kraft Foods was among the top five contributors to oppose the highly controversial and widely publicized ballot initiative to label foods containing genetically modified organisms in California in 2012.¹ Over 90% of U.S. consumers support GMO labeling, and companies that spent millions of dollars to override their consumers’ concerns—including Kraft– were depicted in the media as anti transparency and as preventing informed consumer choice.²
Shareholders should be additionally concerned by the weak measures Kraft has in place to oversee this use of company funds. Specifically, the company received a low score of 55.7% in this year’s CPA-Zicklin Index, which scores companies within the S&P 100 on 25 indicators relating to their political spending disclosure, policies, compliance, and oversight.³
Furthermore, in addition to generating controversy and reputational risk, several academic studies suggest that corporate political contributions may correlate with lower shareholder value. One such study from Harvard Law School in 2012 concluded that “in most industries, political activity correlates negatively with measures of shareholder power, positively with signs of agency costs, and negatively with shareholder value…Overall, the results are inconsistent with politics generally serving shareholder interests.”⁴
We are concerned that Kraft is spending millions to influence controversial public policy elections, without demonstrating the value to shareholders. We believe that using corporate funds to gamble on the outcome of political elections is a poor investment that exposes the company and shareholders to significant risks without generating value. Consequently, we urge you to vote FOR this proposal that asks Kraft to protect shareholder value by voluntarily refraining from spending corporate funds to influence election outcomes.
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Green Century Capital Management is an environmentally responsible investment advisory firm that manages two fossil fuel free mutual funds. Founded by a partnership of non-profit environmental advocacy organizations in 1991, Green Century provides people who care about a clean, healthy planet the opportunity to keep their money out of environmentally irresponsible companies and use the leverage of their investment dollars to encourage environmentally responsible corporate behavior. Visit Green Century at greencentury.com.
*As of March 31, 2014, Kraft Foods Group, Inc. comprised 0.54% and 0.00% of the Green Century Equity Fund and the Green Century Balanced Fund, respectively. The holdings of the Green Century Funds may change due to ongoing management of the Funds. References to specific investments should not be construed as a recommendation of a security by the Funds, their advisor, administrator, or distributor.
Stocks will fluctuate in response to factors that may affect a single company, industry, sector, or the market as a whole and may perform worse than the market. Bonds are subject to risks including interest rate, credit, and inflation. The Funds’ environmental criteria limit the investments available to the Funds compared to mutual funds that do not use environmental criteria.
You should carefully consider the Funds’ investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses before investing. To obtain a Prospectus that contains this and other information about the Funds, please click here, email email@example.com, or call 1-800-93-GREEN. Please read the Prospectus before investing.
This information has been prepared from sources believed to be reliable. The views expressed are as of the date of this writing and are those of the Advisor to the Funds.
The Green Century Funds are distributed by UMB Distribution Services, LLC. 5/14