The 2018 – 2019 shareholder season has come to a close and we had another impactful year. Here are 11 of our most significant achievements from the season.
1.Verizon* heeded our call
We withdrew a shareholder proposal with Verizon Communications, Inc. after the company announced a commitment to source the equivalent of 50% of its annual electricity usage from renewable sources by 2025.
Verizon is the largest telecommunications company in the U.S., with more than 147 million wireless subscribers, so this commitment represents a massive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
According to Verizon, more than 93% of the company’s GHGs come from the electricity used to power its networks, so this ambitious goal will go a long way towards reducing the environmental impact of the company’s operations.
2. Kroger* agreed to protect tropical forests
Kroger Co., the largest grocery chain in the U.S., agreed to develop and implement a no-deforestation policy after we filed a shareholder resolution with the company, urging them to take action. After the announcement, we withdrew our shareholder resolution with the company.
According to our agreement, Kroger will implement a no-deforestation policy in its private label Our Brands products supply chain by 2020. It also will report on the progress it makes toward its goals through reliable third-party questionnaires.
As one of the largest retailers in the world with an extensive supply chain, Kroger’s new commitment is the kind of corporate buy-in we need to preserve the world’s forests.
3. Darden* agreed to reduce antibiotic misuse
Following a multi-year engagement with Green Century, Darden Restaurants, Inc. (Darden) finally agreed to adopt a policy to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics in its chicken supply chain by 2023. Darden is the largest casual dining operator in the U.S., and this is the first time-bound antibiotics commitment made by a casual, sit-down restaurant chain.
Antibiotic resistance is a global public health crisis, according to the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria sicken 2 million Americans each year, and may be responsible for as many as 150,000 annual premature deaths in the U.S., which would make it the third highest cause of death in the country.
Experts attribute the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs to the overuse of antibiotics in food-animal production. An astounding 70% of medically important antibiotics in the U.S. are sold for use in livestock, predominantly for prophylactic purposes, rather than for treatment.
4. We asked, and Amazon* delivered
Green Century withdrew its shareholder proposal with Amazon.com, Inc., following the announcement of its new emission reduction initiative, “Shipment Zero.”
Shipment Zero is Amazon’s first concrete commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. It commits the company to carbon neutrality for half of its package deliveries by 2030, with a broader vision for entirely carbon neutral deliveries in the future. Considering that Amazon shipped more than 5 billion packages in 2017 through its Prime program alone, this commitment represents a significant step forward.
Amazon also announced that it would publicly disclose its company-wide carbon footprint by the end of 2019.
In December 2018, we filed a shareholder proposal with Amazon, asking the company to adopt quantitative goals to manage its greenhouse gas emissions and report on its plans for achieving the targets. We discussed the request with Amazon representatives later that month.
According to a 2018 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050 in order to limit average global temperature rise to 1.5°C and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
5. Food service giant Aramark* agreed to protect tropical forests
Following a meeting in our Boston office, Aramark agreed to develop a “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” (NDPE) sourcing policy to protect tropical forests and peatlands, endangered species and biodiversity, and local workforces. Preserving high carbon stock tropical forests and peat is essential for mitigating climate change.
Aramark also explicitly agreed to prohibit legal deforestation in its supply chain. This is especially important for commodities, such as soy, cattle, and coffee, that come from Latin America, where government-sanctioned deforestation is a considerable risk.
Aramark serves nearly 2 billion meals each year in schools, hospitals, sports stadiums (including Boston’s beloved Fenway Park), and more, so the environmental ramifications of this agreement will be substantial.
6. We pressed General Mills* to protect bees
Toxic pesticides are killing bees and other wild pollinators, which are essential to global food production, so we asked General Mills,* owner of brands such as Cheerios, Cascadian Farm, and Nature Valley, to begin tracking and reducing the use of toxic pesticides in its supply chain.
The proposal received the support of nearly a third of shareholder support.
There is a growing scientific consensus that certain pesticides, including neonicotinoids (neonics) and glyphosate, are contributing to a massive pollinator die-off, which jeopardizes food security and ecosystem diversity. More than 40% of global pollinator populations are “highly threatened.” Yet, 75% of global food crops rely on pollinators for reproduction, accounting for up to $577 billion worth of annual food production.
7. Sustainable palm became more sustainable
We helped improve the reliability of sustainable palm oil certification, which is critical to ending deforestation caused by palm production.
We have long pushed the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the leading third-party certification organization for sustainable palm oil, to adopt stronger standards to ensure that its certifications are as valuable as possible to ending deforestation driven by palm.
This season, we submitted extensive comments to the RSPO during its Principles & Criteria review period. We also organized global investors, representing $6.7 trillion in assets under management, to support a letter urging the RSPO to expand protections for forest and peatlands, require greater transparency of plantation ownership, and enact a variety of measures to protect human rights.
At the organization’s annual meeting in November 2018, RSPO members ratified and adopted the updated certification standards, which incorporated a majority of the suggestions highlighted in the investor letter we sent.
8. Royal Caribbean* agreed to address food waste
Nearly 40% of all food is wasted in the U.S., so it was significant that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL), the second largest cruise company in the world, agreed to make its food waste management and reduction strategies more public.
Cruise ships are notorious for their bountiful buffets, but this all-you-can-eat abundance comes at a price. Global food waste is responsible for an estimated 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions, twice the total greenhouse gas emissions of all vehicles on all roads in the U.S. in 2010.
If global food waste were its own nation, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the U.S.
9. We started targeting the banks that finance corporate forest destruction
Some companies are unreceptive to shareholder pressure. For example, certain palm oil producers remain unconvinced that they need to improve the sustainability of their operations, despite a growing chorus of concern from investors and the public about deforestation.
Since we’ve been unable to persuade these companies to stop destroying tropical forests, we decided to turn our attention to the banks and asset managers that finance them or any corporation that causes, or is exposed to, deforestation.
Initially, we asked 11 major U.S. banks and asset managers how they manage and monitor environmental and social deforestation-related risks in their lending and investing practices, and pushed them to adopt policies that account for deforestation.
Stay tuned for future updates on this effort.
10. We traveled to Southeast Asia and Europe to participate in global discussions about forest protection
To transform the entirety of the palm oil industry, it’s important to mobilize buyers and traders to encourage producers to adopt sustainable production practices.
It’s equally important to engage producers directly about the expectations of international markets. Our forest protection shareholder advocate traveled to Indonesia and Malaysia to directly press palm oil growers, processors, traders, and the banks that finance them to end deforestation.
She met with 5 palm oil companies and urged them to improve their practices regarding sustainability certification, zero deforestation commitments, and transparency about their suppliers.
Our shareholder advocate also recently traveled to Utrecht, the Netherlands, to attend International Sustainability Week, which was focused on deforestation.
Since many corporations have made robust pledges to halt deforestation in their operations and supply chains by 2020, it promises to be an important year for forests. International Sustainability Week was a series of related conferences that provided multiple stakeholders with an opportunity to discuss their perspectives and plans of action ahead of 2020.
We are proud to be the leading global investor in the effort to end deforestation.
11. Our shareholder advocacy team grew
We welcomed a new shareholder advocate to our team. With the addition of Macy Zander, our team of advocates is one of the largest in the industry.
Prior to joining Green Century, Macy worked for a conservation foundation and was an environmental organizer focused on energy and water issues. She was recently published, too. If you’re interested, you can find her article on Sub-Saharan African cotton supply chain certification here. You can learn more about our whole team here.
*As of June 30, 2019, Verizon Communications, Ltd., Kroger, Co., Darden Restaurants, Inc., Aramark, General Mills, Inc., and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. comprised 1.62%, 1.91%, and 0.00%; 0.00%, 0.14%, and 0.00%; 0.00%, 0.12% and 0.00%; 0.00%, 0.07%, and 0.00%; 0.65%, 0.25% and 0.00%; 0.00%, 0.17% and 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund, the Green Century Equity Fund, and the Green Century MSCI International Index Fund, respectively. Other securities mentioned were not held in the portfolios as of June 30, 2019. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or the distributor.
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